Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Another part of the Puzzle

And another "Who ordered THAT?" moment.

Still, that's the best part of Science, when you come across something wholly unexpected, and that challenges previous theories.

From Medical Hypotheses:
Reversal of normal cerebral sexual dimorphism in schizophrenia: evidence and speculations.

Sex differences in epidemiology, clinical course and symptomatology of schizophrenia have been widely documented, but still relatively little is known about the brain sexual dimorphism in this psychiatric disorder. While some neuroanatomical and neuropsychological studies have reported existence of differences between male and female patients in a direction of normal sexual dimorphism, others did not find any effect. A few recent reports point to a peculiar disturbance of normal sexual dimorphism in brain regions implicated in the processing of emotions, including amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate.
...
Based on these preliminary structural and functional neuroimaging data, as well as some clinical reports, it is hypothesized in the present paper that schizophrenia is characterized by a reversed (or at least seriously disturbed) cerebral sexual dimorphism. It is further argued that this phenomenon stems from masculinization and/or un-feminization of females and feminizations and/or un-masculinization of males by sex steroid hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, during both organizational and activational stages of neurodevelopment.
And from the Fernand-Seguin Research Centre of Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital :
The brain of a schizophrenic woman possesses masculine qualities while that of a man with the same disease hasfeminine attributes, according to a recent study by Dr. Adrianna Mendrek fromFernand-Seguin Research Centre of Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital.
...
"We have noted a masculinization of the female brain and a feminization of the male one in schizophrenics. There is a real sexual reversal in men and women with schizophrenia in terms of neuronal circuits, the dimensions of certain cerebral structures and the production of hormones. We therefore sought to find out whether there are similar differences in terms of cerebral functions," explains Adrianna Mendrek, who is also a researcher associated with the Université de Montréal's Department of Psychiatry.
"We thus studied cerebral activation in people with schizophrenia in terms of emotional processing and cognitive analysis. The results are surprising. When we show a sad photo to men with schizophrenia or when we ask them to perform a spatial skills task, they display cerebral activation similar to that of healthy women performing the same tests. Conversely, women with schizophrenia show cerebral activation similar to that of healthy men."
"These results will help us to better understand this complex disease and revise therapeutic and pharmacological treatment methods. It's still difficult to explain what underlies the sexual reversal mechanisms. Could abnormal production of intrauterine sex hormones be the cause? Could this phenomenon arise from social pressures or differences related to sex and gender in our society? Many questions remain unanswered for now. That's what motivates me to continue my research," concludes Adrianna Mendrek.
I've blogged about Schizophrenia's systematic degradation and degeneration of the brain in a previous post. This data came "out of the blue" though, and we have no good idea what it may mean.

When confronted with a correlation between 2 phenomena, A and B, there's 4 possibilities:
  1. A causes B
  2. B causes A
  3. A and B are both caused by C (some other phenomenon)
  4. It's just coincidence
The probability of the last is low enough to be discarded in anything that makes it this far into publication, on the order of winning a lottery.

So let's look at the others.

Does cross-gendering of the brain directly cause schizophrenia? No, because Transsexuals have the same cross-gendering, and there's lots of evidence to show that they don't suffer the same pattern of neurological degeneration shown in schizophrenia. Many have plenty of other psychological issues due to persecution and mistreatment, but there are enough differentials in the diagnosis to show that transsexuality and schizophrenia have no good correlation. See below though for why if such a correlation did exist, it might be hidden.

Does the neurological degeneration in schizophrenia cause an "unravelling" of the sexing of the brain after birth? It could be. As we have no good handle on the exact mechanism that causes gender brain differences during foetal development, we can't say for sure. Both a genetic pre-disposition and anomalous hormonal environment are very likely to be responsible for sexual differentiation, but exactly how, we don't know. It could very well be that post-birth neural degeneration could "unwind the clock" so to speak, and that schizophrenia could well be a kind of neural un-development, or mimic foetal development in reverse. It could be that a closer study of schizophrenia could tell us a lot about what happens in the womb, and with that understanding may be a key in how to treat this hideous and disabling disease. We may be able to re-stimulate foetal development and reverse the degeneration, though it's unlikely the person will ever be quite the same again.

If so, this leads to a very disquieting thought: there really could be a cure for transsexuality. All we'd have to do is to induce the most extreme form of schizophrenia, eventually reducing the person to a completely mindless cabbage, then re-stimulating foetal development and growing a whole new, non-transsexual personality. Still, if we can do that, we could do the same to anyone, killing off one personality, and making a brand new one more to our liking. Take a Hitler and make them into a Martin Luther King. The trouble is, I think the kind of arrogance and inhumanity that would countenance this "therapy" would be more likely to do the reverse... but I digress.

Are schizophrenia and cross-gendered neurology both caused by the same mechanism? Well, if cross-gendered neurology is caused by genetic pre-disposition and anomalous foetal hormones, then a slightly different or additional genetic pre-disposition and the same or slightly different anomalous foetal hormones could very well be responsible for schizophrenia as well. Again, the trouble is that transsexuals aren't schizophrenic, though it could be that schizophrenics may all be transsexual, just with that hidden by the more obvious symptoms. To analogise, an ingrown toenail may not be diagnosed if a leg is obviously gangrenous.

It could also be that not all transsexuality is congenital, that there are many different mechanisms that can cause the same result. It could be that the same post-birth environmental factors can lead to either neurological cross-gendering alone, or both neurological cross-gendering and neurological degeneration too. It could be that for some, both transsexuals and schizophrenics are made, not born, possibly due to post-birth trauma. There may be many routes all leading to similar outcomes.

If I were to guess... I'd put my money on the "unravelling" hypothesis, but would have side-bets that in a minority of cases at least, post-birth environment would be causal, or more likely, triggering of a congenital disposition. But that's all it is, a guess. We need to do more work here.

If you can put aside the terrible suffering that schizophrenics and those who love them endure... if you can forget the very human consequences to those who are schizophrenic, and for that matter, all who have cross-gendered neurology or other Intersex conditions (yes, Ok, including me, but that's not important in my view)... then DARN this is interesting!

Monday, 30 March 2009

Coming out of the Closet

Well, more like going in... it helps if you spraak Nederlands, though it's not necessary.

Two commercials from rival Brewers. The original...



...and the answer.



Curtsey to Newsbusters Sunday Funnies

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Oh Dear

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.
- Albert Einstein

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

Kindness trumps greed: it asks for sharing. Kindness trumps fear: it calls forth gratefulness and love. Kindness trumps even stupidity, for with sharing and love, one learns.
- Marc Estrin

It might take awhile though.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Happy Endings

I'm not a very female female. Always was a bit of a Tomboy. And I despise stereotypes, and much of stereotypically feminine behaviour just isn't me. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a fashion disaster, anything but a clothes horse. I don't watch the Fashion channel, and the Tyra Banks show is nowhere near as interesting to me as a NASA documentary.

But I cry at happy endings, and at weddings, and this one really got the waterworks going. I say that without apology.



Every girl's dream. Well, every transwoman's, if they're straight. Now pardon me, I need to get a hankie.

Friday, 27 March 2009

We Haven't Got There Yet

File this one under "Interesting URLs", an Internet Treasure.

A story by Harry Turtledove available online: We Haven't Got There Yet.

I know it may seem completely disconnected, but bear with me. Sometimes I wonder about how bizarre the world has become with hyperlinks, and how peculiar - and absolutely vital - it is in Academe to constantly be updating one's references whenever you write anything. The "viral effect" of the ACMA's blacklist has led to some truly surreal discussions on Wikipedia. Can we even talk about talking about a particular URL?

The whole thing makes as much sense as this:
Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown but time will tell and suffers like the divine Miranda with those who for reasons unknown but time will tell are plunged in torment plunged in fire whose fire flames if that continues and who can doubt it will fire the firmament that is to say blast hell to heaven so blue still and calm so calm with a calm which even though intermittent is better than nothing but not so fast and considering what is more that as a result of the labors left unfinished crowned by the Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry of Essy-in-Possy of Testew and Cunard it is established beyond all doubt all other doubt than that which clings to the labors of men that as a result of the labors unfinished of Testew and Cunard it is established as hereinafter but not so fast for reasons unknown that as a result of the public works of Puncher and Wattmann it is established beyond all doubt that in view of the labors of Fartov and Belcher left unfinished for reasons unknown...
I left out Steinweg and Peterman not for reasons unknown, but because I'm struggling with the concept of viral banning, and how the fact that it's a really, really Bad Idea could possibly be controversial.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Cheesy Gifts

UK PM Brown visited US President Obama recently, as Australian PM Rudd is doing now. The exchange of gifts was... well...
From CheeseburgerGothic:
For those who don’t know, Gordie bought Obie a fabulous pen holder carved from the timbers of a British warship that once did sterling work ending the slave trade.

Obie bought Gordie a cheap box set of DVDs from Walmart, but forgot to check the region coding, so they won’t actually play at Number 10.

Ever since I read that story, knowing that the Ruddbot would be mooching around the White House this week, I’ve been wondering how either man could possibly top that embarrassing mismatch of pressies.
And should I mention that PM Brown is blind in one eye, and acutely visually impaired in the other? Makes watching DVDs rather difficult...

Anyway, I answered the question. Absolutely the most embarrassing present I could think of, bar none. A gaffe of epic, nay, gargantuan proportions. A gift so inappropriate, so grotesquely offensive, that it would make history. Here are some other commenter's reactions to my suggestion.
By johnbirmingham, March 23, 2009 @ 12:24 pm
Zoe Brain wins.

By brian, March 23, 2009 @ 12:44 pm
Zoe’s got it. Missed the link first time round.
Polite applause.

By Puma, March 23, 2009 @ 4:18 pm
LOL @ZoeBrain. Great link.

By savo, March 23, 2009 @ 5:40 pm
ZB: Zzzzzing
...

By Blindwilly, March 23, 2009 @ 8:28 pm
Been out all day, just read ZoeBrain’s comment and clicked the link. And then spat coffee all over my keyboard and monitor. Epic LOL!!

By Paul Nicholas Boylan, March 24, 2009 @ 12:11 am
Blindwilly - Me too (except that milk shot out of my nose)! Thank you, Zoe. Perfect.

My answer? :
How about some packets of “Australia’s Tastiest Cheese”?
Australians are known for their irreverence, after all. It's expected.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Gay Chimerality?

The Chimera Hypothesis: Homosexuality and Plural Pregnancy
Eventually, it was a search into the phenomenon of twinning, which is the main cause of chimerism (excluding fetal cell chimerism in mothers), that led me to the work of Dr. Charles Boklage, a geneticist who is at the forefront of research into chimerism and twinning. Boklage is of the opinion that chimerism is at the root of many poorly-understood conditions and traits, including homosexuality. His research, although considered controversial, was essential to a better understanding of the complex subject of embryology. Furthermore, Richard Lippa, who discovered associations between hair whorls, handedness and homosexuality, introduced the idea of selection for a gene that might predispose people to homosexuality, counter-clockwise hair whorls and left-handedness. His explanation was that perhaps what’s being selected is phenotypical diversity, but he left out the association between twinning and the characteristics he studied. Twinning suggests increased fertility, which is always a factor in selection. So perhaps homosexuality is incidental to increased maternal fertility in the rather unique environment of the human womb, which is not designed for plural pregnancies....

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Passports - The Last Battle

And we won it. We've regained everything that was lost, and gained something new - recognition of our actual sex on our passports.

From the Sydney Star Observer :
The Rudd Government has reinstated gender-neutral identity documents and passports to help transgender people travelling overseas for surgery.

The decision follows an Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruling last year that transgender married couples were entitled to be issued new passports with their correct gender and existing marital status.

The policy review recommended those applications by people who are legally married and in a same-sex relationship should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
“Since the AAT decision, five passports have been issued to married sex- and gender-diverse persons,” the Department of Foreign Affairs stated in response to Senate questions.
And at least one before - mine.
A new limited-validity passport will be available to applicants who wish to travel overseas for gender re-assignment surgery.
This isn't so much new, as restoral of a right enshrined in legislation, but which was summarily withdrawn at Ministerial whim. Out of pique at the way TS people had had so many wins in the courts. Supposedly it was an anti-terrorism measure, though the exact logic of that was never explained, especially since the USA never stopped issuing such 1-year validity passports for this purpose.
Transgender people who have not legally changed genders will also be allowed to apply for an internationally-recognised document of identity (DOI) with the gender field left blank.
Well.. internationally recognised by some nations. Not others. It's not good for travel to the USA for example. And most importantly, neither does it guarantee right of return.
Applicants who wish to travel overseas for gender reassignment surgery may be eligible for a limited-validity passport in their intended gender.
As the legislation always provided for.
Gender Centre spokeswoman Katherine Cummings said gender-neutral documentation wasn’t quite good enough because it draws attention to the traveller. She said the Gender Centre was not consulted when the re-introduced documents were first removed under former foreign minister Alexander Downer, nor were they consulted as part of the recent review.
No, and it wasn't through lack of trying on our part. We repeatedly requested dialogue, but they weren't interested. So we had to fight for everything via the Courts.

A war that should never have been fought is now over. And... we've won. And maybe, just maybe, the transphobia that infected the Australian Passport Office is now a thing of the past. I hope so.

But if we have to go through all this pain and nausea again when the Government changes, we will. And corporate memory is strong - they know just how indomitable we can be, never giving up, never giving in, and with the demonstrated ability to prove our case in courts. Perhaps they may be deterred in future. Time will tell.

I hope it's not necessary.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Senator Conroy - The Ignorant

Following on from a previous post about Internet Censorship and Government bungling...

From the SMH :
The Federal Government will begin trawling blog sites as part of a new media monitoring strategy, with official documents singling out a website critical of the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy.

Tender documents issued by the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy reveal it is looking for a "monitoring service for print and electronic media".
Dear Senator Conroy: You're an ignorant buffoon, who has made himself, and this country, a laughing-stock around the world.

Is that critical enough to gain your attention? I toned it down from what I really feel, you see. Unlike some.

So what led me to this opinion that if brains were dynamite, you couldn't blow up a paper bag? From the SMH again:
The Australian communications regulator says it will fine people who hyperlink to sites on its blacklist, which has been further expanded to include several pages on the anonymous whistleblower site Wikileaks.

Wikileaks was added to the blacklist for publishing a leaked document containing Denmark's list of banned websites.

The move by the Australian Communications and Media Authority comes after it threatened the host of online broadband discussion forum Whirlpool last week with a $11,000-a-day fine over a link published in its forum to another page blacklisted by ACMA - an anti-abortion website.

ACMA's blacklist does not have a significant impact on web browsing by Australians today but sites contained on it will be blocked for everyone if the Federal Government implements its mandatory internet filtering censorship scheme.

But even without the mandatory censorship scheme, as is evident in the Whirlpool case, ACMA can force sites hosted in Australia to remove "prohibited" pages and even links to prohibited pages.
So to summarise: www.nastysite.com gets banned, and for good reason. But www.freespeech.org that says "www.nastysite.com is banned" is also banned, because it links to a banned site. Which means that www.bigOzblog.com.au, that often deals with Freedom of Speech issues, and often links to www.freespeech.org gets banned. Which means that the Australian National Library, which has snapshots of www.bigOzblog.au gets banned. Which means that all Australian Government sites that link to the Australian National Library get banned.....

Of course this is only hypothetical, right? The only purpose of this blacklist is to stop child pornography, not sites the Government finds inconvenient, right?

From The Australian:
On March 10, ACMA issued Sydney web hosting company Bulletproof Networks with an "interim link-deletion notice" for allowing its customer, the Whirlpool internet community website, to post the link to an anti-abortion web page blacklisted by the regulator.

Whirlpool is a popular website with around 276,000 members who regularly provide comments on the internet and broadband in Australia.

The interim notice, obtained by The Australian, stated that on February 19, ACMA received information that a Whirlpool forums page "may contain links to other websites that may contain 'prohibited content' or 'potentially prohibited content'".

According to the notice, ACMA determined that end-users in Australia could access the content on the blacklisted web page.

ACMA gave Bulletproof around 24 hours to act.
And here is the Department's e-mail:
Subject: Complaint Reference: 2009000009/ ACMA-691604278
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2009 15:45:00 +1100
From: online@acma.gov.au

Complaint Reference: 2009000009/ ACMA-691604278

I refer to the complaint that you lodged with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on 5th January 2009 about certain content made available at:

http://www.abortiontv.com/Pics/AbortionPictures6.htm

Following investigation of your complaint, ACMA is satisfied that the internet content is hosted outside Australia, and that the content is prohibited or potential prohibited content.

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has a code of practice (http://www.iia.net.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=415&Itemid=33) for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which, among other things, set out arrangements for dealing with such content. In accordance with the code, ACMA has notified the above content to the makers of IIA approved filters, for their attention and appropriate action. The code requires ISPs to make available to customers an IIA approved filter.

Information about ACMA’s role in regulating online content (including internet and mobile content), including what is prohibited or potentially prohibited content is available at ACMA’s website at www.acma.gov.au/hotline

Thank you for bringing this matter to ACMA’s attention.
Oops, looks like that by quoting an official Government Communication, I have published a banned link!!! Quelle Horreur!!

But wait, it makes no difference. You see:
  1. My site links to Instapundit, the Great-Grand-daddy of Blogs.
  2. Instapundit links to the Volokh Conspiracy, a law blog.
  3. The Volokh Conspiracy links to its Archives for 15 to 21 of March 2009.
  4. And those archives contain the post Australia Bans Internet Access to Web Pages with Pictures of Aborted Fetuses?.
  5. And that post contains the offending URL, http://www.abortiontv.com/Pics/AbortionPictures6.htm. Oops, I did it again!
What is more, the Australian National Library's saved snapshot of my site contains the link to Instapundit on it, and thus that is tainted too. As are all pages referring to that site...

Such consequences would be obvious to anyone with even the faintest clue as to how the Internet works.

Oh, but it gets worse... from the ABC:
Broadband and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says a list claiming to be the communication regulator's blacklist for a proposed internet filtering system is not the real blacklist.

He has condemned Wikileaks, the website that published the list, as "grossly irresponsible".

This morning Wikileaks published what it says is the Australian Communication and Media Authority's (ACMA) blacklist of banned websites that is being used in trials of a proposed mandatory internet filtering system.

The filter is designed to protect children from accessing child pornography and other criminal content.

As well as child pornography, the published list of 2,395 pages also includes online gambling sites, YouTube links, regular porn and fetish sites, and websites of a tour operator, Queensland boarding kennel and a Queensland dentist. It also includes the Wikileaks website.

"The leak and publication of prohibited URLs is grossly irresponsible. It undermines efforts to improve cyber-safety and create a safe online environment for children," Senator Conroy said.

"Under existing laws the ACMA blacklist includes URLs relating to child sexual abuse, rape, incest, bestiality, sexual violence and detailed instruction in crime.

"I am aware of reports that a list of URLs has been placed on a website. This is not the ACMA blacklist."

He says the published list purports to be current at August 6 2008 and apparently contains approximately 2,400 URLs, whereas the ACMA blacklist for the same date contained 1,061 URLs.

"There are some common URLs to those on the ACMA blacklist. However, ACMA advises that there are URLs on the published list that have never been the subject of a complaint or ACMA investigation, and have never been included on the ACMA blacklist," he said.

"ACMA is investigating this matter and is considering a range of possible actions it may take including referral to the Australian Federal Police. Any Australian involved in making this content publicly available would be at serious risk of criminal prosecution."
So the published blacklist is incorrect. But "any Australian involved in making this content publioly available would be at serious risk of criminal prosecution." One assumes he means sites on the real blacklist. But we're not allowed to know what they are!

As for the dentist? Yes, that one was on the Blacklist. The dentist didn't know that until he asked. (By the way, the site is that of Dental Distinction .. Oops I did it again!). From the Courier-Mail :
The websites of a Queensland dentist, a tuckshop convener and a kennel operator have been included on a secret "blacklist" of sites to be banned by Australia's communications watchdog.

The seemingly innocuous websites were among a leaked list of 2300 websites the Australian Communications and Media Authority was planning to ban to protect children from graphic pornography and violence.

Several Queensland businesses yesterday expressed dismay at their inclusion on the Government's mandatory internet content filter.

Dental Distinction practice manager Kelly Wilson said the business had never been contacted by the ACMA and she was struggling to understand why the website appeared on the list.

"I am quite shocked and slightly amused that our name is on it," Ms Wilson said.

She said the practice's website had been hacked once, redirecting visitors to a website that sold sex enhancement products, but the problem had been fixed 18 months ago.

"People were automatically redirected to this website in the US that sold things like Viagra and sex toys," she said.

"That's the only thing I can think of as to why we're on it."

As well as the dental practice, a website for Maroochy Boarding Kennels and a Brisbane tuckshop convener were named.
You see, that's the problem: we don't know what's on the Blacklist, so we don't know whether we're contravening the law or not, nor whether the site we're making has been placed on it or not, nor for what reason. That's all Secret.

And that's all BS, Senator Conway. You've beclowned yourself, both by accidentally including dentists on the list, and openly and brazenly including a site like Wikileaks.

From Wired:
The Australian Communications and Media Authority added two Wikileaks pages to its censorship list: one for the Danish government's secret index of banned child porn sites as well as Wikileaks' press release about how the index was used and why the site was publishing it.
And the Grauniad :
Wired also carried a report of the ban, saying ACMA added two Wikileaks pages to its censorship list, which is estimated to hold more than a thousand URLs, and is distributed to Australian ISPs, which are required by law to make filters available to block illegal content. Australian websites that link to the pages, says the Register, face the threat of a A$11,000 (£5,200) fine.
Banning Kiddie porn sites is one thing, and one I approve of. But making the list of banned sites secret is unconscionable. Banning sites that publish incorrect lists, or lists from other countries, is ridiculous.

How could it get worse? From Computerworld:
Betfair's Twaits was unaware the TAB rival had been blacklisted when contacted by Computerworld, and said the watchdog had not contacted the company.

"We didn't know [about the ban]. We've been licensed to operate in Australia for three years and have never received a complaint or any allegation that Betfair locally or globally is not permitted to be used by Australians.

"The global Betfair site is used by Australians every day."

Under the Interactive Gambling Act, it is illegal for overseas companies to offer gambling services to Australians and Betfair blocks local customers from accessing its UK poker and casino products.

He said Betfair is probably the only company in the world that blocks its customers from accessing the overseas gambling services.

This law is not applicable to the Betfair.com site.

"I need to find out what the implications are and how we got on the list," Twaits said.

"I'm amazed that this has happened."
The various TABs are state and territory Government monopolies, that provide significant sums into the public purse. Nobbling competitors would be greatly in their interest.

Do I trust the Government under these circumstances? Senator Conroy, people who deal with IT issues aren't idiots. Unlike you.

Oh and some breaking news:
Breaking News: WikiLeaks has released a copy of what is alleged to be the current ACMA blacklist. This list is dated March 18 and includes 1170 URLs, including the now high-profile AbortionTV page and the Wikileaks page containing the Danish blacklist.

URLs belonging to Betfair, The Peaceful Pill Handbook, Redtube, AbbyWinters, IShotMyself, TheHun and xTube are present on the list.

I can also reveal that a URL I believed to be prohibited content and submitted to ACMA this year for further investigation is included on this list.

More to come.
Looks like they got an accurate list this time. I wonder from whom? The suspect list of IT people who would engage in some very serious civil disobedience is very long, probably half of all IT people in the country. Australians have never been known for being overly respectful of Governmental bullying and thuggery when it comes to censorship, and IT people tend to be more independant-minded than most.

Not me though. I didn't publish the URL of the Wikileaks site. Neither did I give instructions on how to find it. I'll give one webpage though that of Google, the de-facto standard search engine. Not that I expect Senator Conroy to know what that means, nor the consequences of banning it.

As for this site? This blog is hosted overseas, not in Australia. Not in their jurisdiction, though of course they could ban it. Better ban the image kept by the Australian National Library too, and of course the mirror on the wayback machine. Oh yes, and the proxy servers as well. And since the Government haven't informed me of what the actual banned list is, I can't be guilty of knowingly mentioning a site on it, can I? All I have to go by are newspaper and online magazine reports, and a list which Senator Conroy has stated is inaccurate. While I may guess that some of the sites might possibly be illegal, I can't know that they are. Because the list is Secret, isn't it?

Oh, and one more thing, Senator Conroy. The IT industry may well be totally co-operative, banning all sites on the list, all sites that link to those sites, all sites that link to those sites, and so forth. That won't be the complete Internet, just 99.99999% of it. For .gov.au domains as a trial run, first. And paying especial attention to access by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Any attempt by anyone there to access anything on the blacklist itself would be immediately forwarded to the Police so prosecution can be commenced.

It's called "working to rule". Twit.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Arrival



A track that always brings tears to my eyes, and would make a wonderful wedding march.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

A Summary of the State of the Art

Here's a reply I wrote to a member of OII - Organisation Intersex International - who asked just exactly what the HBS - Harry Benjamin Syndrome -political group was, in Australia.

It details my thoughts as they've crystalised on the etyology of Transsexuality, what it is, what causes it, and is a decent summary of what we know so far.

I can't give you "the" picture of HBS. I have some significant differences from may others on the issue.

For example, I believe that the gender binary is merely a very good approximation. Just like it's best to treat the Earth as being flat, locally. It's not, but it works best when walking to the corner shop if you treat the journey as if it is.

I believe that gender is in the brain, and so is sex, and sexual orientation. But again, though it's really useful to make categories of "male", "female", "straight", "bi" etc, and while those definitions may be exact, not just approximate, descriptions of most people, for a large proportion they are only approximations, and for a small minority, bad approximations at that. So bad they're not just useless, but counter-productive.

I believe that it's most likely that "typically female" or "typically male" patterns of neural development, stereotypes to which individuals conform to a large degree (usually) happen as the result of the foetal hormonal environment, as modified by genetics. Atypical development may happen, and we're talking only about the lymbic nucleus here, the brainstem, hypothalamus etc , areas whose development is mostly or completely set before birth.

These lymbic patterns affect later development of the cerebral cortex (in ways we don't understand - insert much handwaving here, though not elsewhere), in particular lateralisation and connections in the corpus callosum. In addition, the typically female or typically male instincts and emotional responses dictated by the pre-natally hard-wired lymbic system later on lead to the child comparing themselves with peers and adults, and consequently developing a male or female "gender identity" based on who they most resemble.

Just to complicate things... the brain is such a complex organ, that in this case it's useful to see it as an assembly of different organs, much as the reproductive system isn't a single organ, but an assembly, where different parts can conform to different degrees to either of the standard stereotypes. And just as the reproductive system changes morphology, and is to some degree "plastic" and subject to environmentally caused change (notably at puberty), so are the higher brain structures. Yet no new structures develop, the basic pattern is set before birth.

So an individual, whether cissexual, transsexual, or intersexed, will usually have a brain that conforms strongly to a masculine stereotype in some areas, and weakly to a female stereotype in others, or the reverse. The areas will differ between individuals though, and what evidence we have from cases of 5ARD and 17BHDD is that perhaps a third of people can function in either gender role. I wish we had more to confirm this. For that matter, I wish we understood what gives rise to left-handedness or ambidexterity, areas of brain development post-birth that are equally as radical (neurologically speaking) as many of the bimodal sex differences.

In practical terms, one of the most important areas is that of body image. Most will have a strong body image conforming to one stereotype or another, but some will not. This is observable in Intersexed people, many of whom "want to be normal", but some of whom object strongly to the concept of having their genitals surgically altered, even though they may be atypical. In the worst case, an Intersexed person who "wants to be normal" has had their genitals surgically changed to make them as abnormal as they can be, to be those of the opposite sex to the stereotype given by their "body image".

Where I radically differ from the standard HBS model is that the evidence to me shows that while there is a strong correlation between stereotypes-conformity in all parts of the brain, it's not exact. As just one example, it's not just possible, it's inevitable that there will be some people with strong male identities, whose brains in general conform to a typically male stereotype, but whose body image is that of a female to a greater or lesser degree. Some men feel most comfortable having feminised genitalia, and some women feel most comfortable having masculinised genitalia. And many more are just afraid of surgery, and want to live with whatever they're lumbered with, even if it's not optimal. All-consuming desire for typical genitalia is *not* a reliable touchstone for determining gender, any more than chromosomes are a reliable touchstone for determining sex. They're just really, really good approximations.

The standard HBS model, as I interpret it, as over-simplistic. There are male brains, and female brains, period. If you have a male brain, you *NEED* (not just desire) male genitalia, and if you have a female brain, you *NEED* (not just desire) female genitalia, and that's all there is to it. Everything else is "psychological" and any ambiguity or anomaly a "mental illness". I don't agree with this, as it results in trying to coerce observations into fitting what is almost a religious theory rather than a scientific one. It's basically correct, but only as correct as saying the Earth is flat. The further you go from the local area, the less useful such a view becomes. Go far enough away, and it breaks down completely.

One more thing, which may colour my interpretations of the data. This is the Australian HBS group, and in Australia, it is the medical and legal position that what is termed "transsexuality" is a form of neurological intersex, where (parts or a part of) the brain is cross-gendered compared to the majority of the rest of the body.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Today's Battles

Trans Students Victimised:
Tim Said: March 18th, 2009 at 6:32 pm
Being gay, bisexual, lesbian is not a choice. Being transexual is a mental disorder. Why should we support them?

Tim Said: March 18th, 2009 at 7:17 pm
They are in denial you can’t just cut your penis off a say your a female and a female can not grow a penis. You are what you are live with it and see a psychiatrist. I swear sometimes I think gay people will defend anything and anyone just for equal rights.
Victimised - not least by various Gays.

Sexual Orientation Bill Gets Large Turnout
The bill seeks to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment, credit transaction and use of public accommodation.

Opponents said the bill would have unintended consequences and argued that sexual orientation is a choice, unlike race or other characteristics that fall under protected classes.
Such as Religion?
A concern raised often by opponents was that the bill allows transgender individuals to use public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

Several, including Tom Frier of the North Dakota Family Alliance, said sexual predators would take advantage of that protection and target women and children in restrooms.

Committee member Rep. Kari Conrad, D-Minot, asked several times if people fear using the restrooms in Minnesota, which already has such a law.

The testimony from some opponents about sexual orientation elicited shaking heads and gasps at times, with at least five audience members walking out of the hearing.

The biggest reaction came after Fargo resident Martin Wishnatsky used some graphic language to describe sexual intercourse between same-sex partners.
*Sigh*
Rich N. Fargo, ND 03/20/2009 1:04 AM
This legislation is nothing more than smokescreen for a liberal progressive agenda. Did anyone who testified submit summary judgements of dismissed lawsuits citing the reason for dismissal was unprotected status under ND law? If not there is no need for this legislation.
Can anyone really be that thick? Because if so, there are just as few summary judgements saying he doesn't owe me $1,000,000 so by that "logic" obviously I'm entitled to collect...

Richard J. Ashbrook: Rental owners need Amendment 1
What you are not aware of is that most cases of deviant behavior in this industry do not make the local news. Our industry is forever constrained by privacy laws and we can not disclose problems we have with our residents – ever! With that said if I could relay to you my personal experiences, my thirteen years in this industry have resulted in multiple instances of deviant behavior with students living in apartments in Gainesville. All my peers in this industry agree that if they were not constrained by the Federal Privacy Act of 1973, their combined retelling of events in their communities would number in the hundreds over the last several years and each and every one of these events would curl the hairs on the back of your necks.

A no vote continues to allow cart blanch access for deviant individuals to get a free pass into the bedrooms of the young men and woman of Gainesville. I strongly encourage everyone to vote YES on Charter Amendment 1.
My reply:
That perverts exist is indisputable. However, you have adduced alleged cases that exist regardless of the law protecting transgendered people. Do you know of a single case, anywhere, in any jurisdiction whatsoever, where an "unscrupulous individual" has even attempted to take advantage of such a law, let alone successfully?

The evidence we have is that laws protecting transgendered people have no effect whatsoever on the incidence of perverts committing crimes.

Should you say otherwise, that you have such evidence, but are not permitted to break confidentiality, I would of course take your word for it, but at least you could tell us the numbers involved, the state and the year, so we could quantify the problem. Because as far as we know, it's completely mythical, and to put it bluntly, not just a misrepresentation but a deliberate lie contrary to the facts. We rely of course on court records and police reports. But if an incident truly happened, surely the police should have been involved, and the incident not "covered up"?

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Next BigThing

Over at TECHLifePost, my column this week is not about something big, but something little. Some of the less obvious uses for Nanotechnology

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Australian Human Rights Commission Report

Here are the human rights commission's recommendations to the government - The Sex Files, dealing with the problems of documentation that Intersexed, Transsexual, and Transgendered people face:
Recommendation 1:

Marital status should not be a relevant consideration as to whether or not a person can request a change in legal sex.

Recommendation 2:

The definition of sex affirmation treatment should be broadened so that surgery is not the only criteria for a change in legal sex.

Recommendation 3:

The evidentiary requirements for the legal recognition of sex should be relaxed by reducing the quantity of medical evidence required and making greater allowance for people to self-identify their sex.

Recommendation 4:

The special needs of children and young people who wish to amend their documents and records should be considered.

Recommendation 5:

A person over the age of 18 years should be able to choose to have an unspecified sex noted on documents and records.

Recommendation 6:

Information on the process and criteria for the legal recognition of sex should be easily accessible and user-friendly.

Recommendation 7:

Documents of identity and processes required for the legal recognition of sex should not reveal personal information about a person's past identity in relation to sex.

Recommendation 8:

Laws and processes for the legal recognition of sex should use empowering terminology.

Recommendation 9:

Where possible, sex or gender should be removed from government forms and documents.

Recommendation 10:

The federal government should consider the development of national guidelines concerning the collection of sex and gender information from individuals.

Recommendation 11:

The federal government should take a leadership role in ensuring that there is a nationally consistent approach to the legal recognition of sex in accordance with the recommendations of this paper, by either
  • working cooperatively with state and territory governments through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) process to amend their respective legislation and policies in line with the recommendations in this paper, particularly in relation to birth certificates, or
  • establishing a national board with responsibility for receiving and determining applications for official recognition of a change in sex, based on the recommendations in this paper (see section 11.2), as well as securing agreement from states and territories to recognise certificates of recognition issued by such a board.

Recommendation 12:

The federal government should consider establishing a national office to advise and assist the public and federal government in relation to changing legal recognition of sex, as an alternative or precursor to the national board put forward in Recommendation 11.

Recommendation 13:

In the event that Recommendation 11 fails to result in sufficient
support from state and territory governments, the federal government should consider legislation to:
  • amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) to ensure that the protection against marital status discrimination applies in the context of married persons seeking to amend their birth certificates, to effectively override the existing discrimination under state and territory births registration legislation
  • establish a minimum national standard in respect of legal recognition of sex in documents and government records in line with the recommendations in this paper.

Recommendation 14:

The federal government should harmonise policies, procedures and legislation relevant to the legal recognition of sex in federal documents and records.

Recommendation 15:

The federal government should take immediate steps to ensure that all federal government departments and agencies provide clear and accessible information relevant to legal recognition of sex in documents and records and how those documents and records can be amended, such as by including a page on the department or agency's website dedicated to this topic.

The Constitutional situation in Australia is very similar to that of the USA, with similar restrictions on Federal powers. The major difference is that Marriage is covered by Federal legislation in Australia (unlike the USA), but as in the USA, birth registration is a state matter.

The USA could do worse than to study these recommendations.

I was there at the official launch of this report, in one of the Committee rooms at Parliament House. There were representatives of OII (Organisation Intersex International), A Gender Agenda, the SeaHorse Club (CrossDressers), and the various Transsexual advocacy groups here. I suppose you could say I was the observer for Sex and Gender Education Australia.

Present was Senator Pratt (Western Australia) who has a personal interest in the issue. Her partner is a transman.

The press was conspicuous by its absence. This has led to some garbling of the report, for example by the AAP:
Transgender people should also be able to undergo sex-change surgery regardless of their marital status.
That restriction was removed over 10 years ago. And it's been over 15 since having ever been married meant that no surgery could be contemplated.

On the other hand, permission from an existing spouse is asked for, and it's most helpful if it's given. My partner was interviewed in private both by my endocrinologist, and the psych who wrote the letter de cachet authorising hormone treatment and surgery.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Today's Battles

At the Broward Palm Beach News-Times arguing that Susan Stanton should be given a fair go. Not a favourable one, a fair one. She hasn't had one of those in 2 years though, so I'm not holding my breath.

At News Jacksonville.com a debate on human rights law that has turned into a debate on Christian theology. As if the two were connected. In some ways, government at the local level in parts of the USA is a Theocracy, despite what they'd like to think.

To the Palm Beach Post , and fighting the shower-nuts' lies again. Most people who are likely to vote for the Amendment to the Gainesville city charter that will strip human rights from people like me are at worst, gullible, and usually just misinformed by people that should be trustworthy.

Thence the Denver Post , and some information about Intersex conditions and Transsexuality. And asking the question "is it actually possible to murder someone who's transsexual, when no matter what the circumstances, you can always use a trans-panic defence?".

And finally, some snarky words in defence of an Intersexed German Tennis player.

It takes a while to move a mountain, one spoonful at a time.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Best. Birthday. Present. Ever.

My son singing "Happy Birthday" and then saying "I love you, Zeddie!"

Today, I turned 33. In hexadecimal.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

And they're not, either

My comment over at ConnPolitics, about those who want to abolish those laws preventing discrimination against the sinful.
Regarding the laws that restrict religious freedom, by preventing God-Fearing people from associating with the Ungodly, homosexuals, the transgendered, and those freaks the Intersexed... not being able to refuse them service at restaurants, or to refuse to let them rooms because of their sinful behaviour....

I know of one guy - though I've not met him personally, I know many who have - and he's a bit of a disreputable character. He claims to be deeply spiritual, but when you look at the kind of people he hangs out with, you have to wonder.

Rather than shunning them to show his disapproval of their sin, he consorts with prostitutes and other lowlives. Money-lenders, even those in the pay of foreign powers. Scum and Filth. No-one, no pastor or upstanding member of the community wants to have anything to do with him. Now he *says* that he does this because these lowlives are the ones most in need. But everyone who knows the scriptures knows he's violating dozens of laws.

He *says* he's obeying the spirit behind them, that the greatest commandments are "Love God, and be Kind to others", that everything else is subordinate to that and over-ruled by it.

Well.

I predict he'll come to a bad end one day. Certainly nobody respectable has anything to do with him.

It's guys like that that are responsible for all of these "human rights" laws we have. We demand the right to persecute others on the basis of our Christian Faith. We're nothing like this "Jesus" character.
It's sad that that's true. The Pharisees, the Lawyers and the Scribes, the Pastors, the Evangelists and the Church Wardens don't see themselves as they would be seen by Him. They know Him not.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Medical Arrogance



I'm almost too angry to comment rationally. The video speaks for itself.

It's not complicated.
Let the kid grow up sufficiently so they can tell us what gender they are - and then support them in whatever they decide. Male, female, or something else.
Yes, there may be a cancer risk - in 15 years time. No surgery is needed before that age.

As for this "doctor"? Malpractice. Child Abuse. Sexual Abuse. Strike him from the register, and put him on a list of sex offenders. Confiscate all his assets.

But would it do any good? Well, it would stop a repeat offence, and act as a strong deterrent. And more merciful than another alternative that springs to mind. One involving surgical shears. If it was me though, I'd add that as a punishment, not substitute it.

Now I'm going to have a good, solid cry for this little boy. And try to regain my composure, and try very, very hard to forgive this arrogant, blundering, sadistic fool.

I may be some time doing that. Even when I was 8 years old, I felt very protective of young children.

I wish this were an isolated case. But it's what happens to Intersexed children. Adults too, but somehow it's so much worse when a child is the victim.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

China's Lunar Timetable

From Space Daily:
A Chinese astronautics professor said Tuesday the country is capable of sending astronauts to moon around 2020.

"The key technology problem is the 'returning'", said Xu Shijie, a professor from the Beijing University of Aeronautics, explaining that the country's three-stage moon mission could be defined as "orbiting", "landing" and "returning".

The third stage will last from 2017 to 2020, during which China will launch recoverable moon rovers.

Many countries, including China, target to sending astronauts to the moon, said Xu, member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), who is in Beijing attending the annual sessions of the political advisory body.

China's moon mission timetable was revealed as the country concluded the first phase of its three-stage moon mission with a controlled impact of Chang'e-1 on the moon on March 1.

China plans to land Chang'e-3 on the moon at latest in 2013, Ye Peijian, chief designer of Chang'e-1, the country's first moon probe, said on Monday.

The mission of Chang'e-3 is to make soft landing and probe the moon, said Ye, a CPPCC national committee member.

Before the mission, Chang'e-2 will be launched at the latest in2011 to test key technologies of soft landing and lower technical risks, he said.

Chang'e-4 will also be launched during the second phase, which will be concluded before 2017.
As I predicted earlier :
The long-term strategy is to have a reliable, tested system for getting people to and from a permanent, largely self-sustaining lunar base, within the next 50 years. The plan is to get some more uncrewed lunar surveyors and sample-return landers working by 2017, while activities continue in earth orbit. Activities including a construction facility for assembling lunar missions. If all goes well, expect a crewed landing in 2020, but it could easily be later than that.
They've made no secret of this, and it doesn't take a Rocket Scientist..... ok, it does I guess, but it doesn't take a *genius* Rocket Scientist to make predictions like this. OK, so most Rocket Scientists are geniusses, but you know what I mean. I'll shut up now.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Keppler



Space... the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the spacecraft Keppler. It's five three-and-a-half year mission : to explore strange new worlds...

Or at least, detect them. From NASA :
Kepler's mission: to peer closely at a patch of space for at least three-and-a-half years, looking for rocky planets similar to our own. The spacecraft will target an area rich with stars like our sun, watching for a slight dimming in the starlight as planets slip through the space between.

"Kepler is a critical component in NASA's broader efforts to ultimately find and study planets where Earth-like conditions may be present," said Jon Morse, the Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The planetary census Kepler takes will be very important for understanding the frequency of Earth-size planets in our galaxy and planning future missions that directly detect and characterize such worlds around nearby stars."
It will be some time before we go there though, alas. It's a good question whether the probes that will be launched taking tens of thousands of years to get there will be overtaken by events though. How long does it take to develop a system that's able to get to a reasonable fraction of c, or even just skip the intervening distance?

One problem with accelerating something to a useful speed - the energy cost. The entire output of the Sun is 4.26 megatons converted to energy per second. So to accelerate a starship the size of the NCC-1701 USS Enterprise, which massed 275,000 tons, to a little less than the speed of light would take the entire output of the sun for about 1/150 of a second. Or about 750 million 1-megaton H-bombs.

It will be some time before we "boldly go" and all that.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Everything You Never Wanted to Know...

About very expensive machines that go "PING!".

Underwater Sound Propagation.


As you can see from the diagram, there is an extensive "shadow zone",the gap between where sound is deflected into the "surface duct", or into the depths. A submarine in this shadow zone could not easily detect a ship at (0,0) making a noise, as the sound is bent away from it. Conversely, that ship's active sonar - which goes PING!- couldn't find the sub, as the sound is deflected away from the target too. Not enough energy reaches it.

The article is a good basic guide to the principles, including such phenomena as the Deep Sound Channel, Convergence Zones, and Bottom-bounce techniques.

It's simplified though. Because the bathytherograph may have several discontinuities, lading to several "thermal layers". Salinity as well as temperature can vary, and there may be vertical layers too, meaning the sound travels in a helical pattern!

Finding subs under those anomalous conditions is close to impossible, even with the best equipment, as there's no sound to detect. Conversely, detection may be possible using a variety of techniques simultaneously, or you can get "multi-path" propagation, where sound of different frequencies takes different paths, so the signal is "smeared".

It's a specialised area, but one I've had something to do with in the past, and one I find quite fascinating.

Even if no-one else does.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Today's Front Pages

The Newseum displays these daily newspaper front pages in their original, unedited form.

Example:

Sunday, 8 March 2009

The Financial Crisis Explained



This video was from February last year, long before the crisis became apparent.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Octopus

This blog often concerns itself with matters that are truly important. But Life's for living, so here's a video which I hope all readers will find entertaining.



And maybe a little bit inspiring too.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Today's Battles

More like "this week's" rather than "today's", but no matter.

At OutSports, attempting to explain why Mike Penner, the sports journalist, is not Christine Daniels any longer.
I don’t care what Mike eventually ends up looking like on the outside, or whether he ends up presenting as Mike or Christine. I just hope that he finds a place of balance, a place of comfort.
On to the Arizona Standard, and the mistreatment of transgendered veterans by the VA. Arguing against the contention that as cosmetic and elective surgery shouldn't be covered, they should be refused treatment.
"Sex reassignment is not "experimental," "investigational," "elective," "cosmetic," or optional in any meaningful sense. It constitutes very effective and appropriate treatment for transsexualism or profound GID."

That's from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health "Standards of Care" or SOC.
Thence to the Daily Vanguard, answering the question "If physical sex can be changed, then why not mental gender? ". It's not as if it hasn't been tried.... for over 50 years...
Just some of the techniques tried - Psychotherapy,. Cognitive Thrapy, Neuro-Linguistic Reprograming, Psychotropic drugs of various sorts, Electro-convulsive therapy, Psychoanalysis, "Aversion Therapy" involving painful electric shocks to eyeballs and genitalia - with or without nauseating drugs being administered, "Spirit Release" therapy, lobotomy, leucotomy, Exorcism... yes, they got pretty desperate. Zero success rate, and even the most intense brainwashing and torture didn't have more than a temporary effect. The more radical brain surgery may have worked, but as the patient was unable to talk or even feed themselves afterwards, that wasn't a great success either. Lesser brain surgery just lowered the IQ and rendered them genderless.

The evidence is that significant proportion of people, perhaps 1 in 3, could function with various degrees of facility as either gender. For those who are strongly gendered though, as all TS people are (or they wouldn't be TS), it's essentially unchangeable with foreseeable technology. We'd have to enlarge some sections of the brain, reduce others, change the distribution of cell types in each structure, even perform surgery on individual cells to give them the right hormone receptors. The brain is very sexually dimorphic, and TS people have cross-gendered neurology.

Changing the rest of the body is much easier, though even then, we can't give fertility yet.
Leaving matters of great public importance, on to Femulate, where I try to give some reassurance to a Transgendered man that there's many more like him. That he's unlikely to be a "transsexual in denial", which is what worries him.

The Twin Cities CityPages are next, discussing the treatment, mistreatment, or maltreatment of TS youngsters. "I believe it is ridiculous to expose any child under the age of 18 to hormones to change the body that they were born with" as one commenter put it. Well, I do too, when there's a significant chance of them being Transsexual. That's why they should be on puberty blockers, so they don't get the inappropriate hormone flood that would otherwise "change the body they were born with" in harmful ways.

That's not what the commenter meant though. Hormones that are "natural" get a free pass from him.
First, as to "lifestyle choice". What about the sighted "lifestyle choice", where people get cataract surgery to correct congenital blindness? Or the hearing "lifestyle choice" with cochleal implants (never as good as the real thing, quite artificial) to correct congenital deafness?
*Sigh*. One thing I've noticed though. Even a year ago, it sometimes seemed that I was the only one with a teaspoon, moving the mountain. Now I'm just one of many, and not the most articulate either. Fewer and fewer articles go unanswered. Fewer and fewer ignorant or bigoted comments go unchallenged.

We're getting there.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

The Next Big Thing

Over at TECHLifePost, my column this week is My Mother-In-Law, the Car.

Too bad I wrote it before this newsitem came in, from the ABC:
It will soon be mandatory for serious drink driving offenders to have alcohol interlock devices fitted to their vehicles in South Australia.

Legislation has passed the SA Parliament providing for a disqualification period for drink drivers, then the fitting of a device to their car for the same duration as their disqualification.

If the drivers blow any blood alcohol reading their car will not start.
Sometimes the future starts happening sooner than you expect.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Lies to Children

From wiki:
Any explanation of an observed phenomenon which, while not 100% scientifically accurate, is simple enough, and just accurate enough, to convey the beginnings of understanding to anyone who is new to the subject. There is always time to fill them in on the fine detail further down the road. This describes the sort of axioms we tell young children when they are beginning to get to grips with science.

"A “lie-to-children” is a statement which is false, but which nevertheless leads the child’s mind towards a more accurate explanation, one that the child will only be able to appreciate if it has been primed with the lie."

"Yes, you needed to understand that” they are told, “so that now we can tell you why it isn’t exactly true”(The Science of Discworld, Ebury Press edition, quotes from pp 41-42)
I don't post very much about my personal life on this blog. I'm actually a very private person, someone who shuns rather than seeks the limelight.

Which makes this whole sex-change thing even more ironic. As a scientist, as a geek, I'm fascinated by it, and also want to share everything I can about a situation I have intimate knowledge of with the world. To cap it off, in order to retain what Human Rights I have, I have to be an "Activist for the working day".
We are but warriors for the working day.
Our gayness and our gilt are all besmirched
With rainy marching in the painful field.
Or in my case,
We are but activists for the working day.
Our gayness and our guilt by others seen
Reflecting naught but blindness in this field
Ok,I won't give up my day job.

But I digress.

My son's favourite Uncle died yesterday. Uncle Keith was sitting, playing a game, had a stroke, went into a coma, and breathed his last as soon as the life support was switched off. He'd been ailing for many years, and was in his late 80's, so this was a shock, but not a surprise.

How do I tell my son that he won't be able to play with Uncle Keith any more? It's at times like this I really wish I had a User Manual for life. One that gave detailed instructions.

We'd talked about death before. Laid the groundwork, as my in-laws live next door, and they're in their late 80's. It won't be long before Andrew won't be able to play with Pa, and Grandma.

So Andrew knows that Uncle Keith is in Heaven now. A wonderful place, the only drawback being that once you leave for there, you can't ever come back. Which is why no-one wants to go, even though there's no sickness or sadness. It means leaving all our loved ones behind. Of course you get to see the ones who have gone before, parents, grandparents, loved pets. Children too, for some.

I hope with all my heart that there is such a place. I don't believe it though. And I certainly don't believe that another place, a place of eternal punishment, exists, for if it does, my place is there. Even if I was in Heaven, the knowledge that others were suffering the torments of the damned would make it truly Hellish for me. Iago may have sung "Credo in un Dio crudel" in Verdi's Otello, and he may have believed in a Cruel God, but I don't. If He exists, he couldn't be that cruel, and if He is, I'll rebel against Him for it. I'm terribly imperfect, but even I'm better than that. Such a deity is not worth worship.

The funeral is on Friday. Andrew's chance to say goodbye, and the final link with this place broken, so Uncle Keith can feel complete, his mortal coil well and truly shuffled off.

I still have no good answer to my son's question "Why didn't he get his head frozen?". I doubt that I will either, it's getting too expensive. But maybe... and not just for me, it seems. He might find some comfort in it, a thought I'd not considered before. Would he be better off inheriting the money, or knowing that his parent had another chance at life? Hopefully I'll have plenty of time to think about it.

So meanwhile, I tell Lies to Children.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

A Generous Helping of Oxytocin

I've blogged about the role of the hormone Oxytocin in the brain before, but now there's some new data about it.

First, from PLos One :
Oxytocin Increases Generosity in Humans
...
In this study, participants were infused with 40 IU oxytocin (OT) or placebo and engaged in a blinded, one-shot decision on how to split a sum of money with a stranger that could be rejected. Those on OT were 80% more generous than those given a placebo. OT had no effect on a unilateral monetary transfer task dissociating generosity from altruism. OT and altruism together predicted almost half the interpersonal variation in generosity. Notably, OT had twofold larger impact on generosity compared to altruism.

Then there's The Neurobiology of Trust(PDF) :
To summarize our findings, peripheral OT (Oxytocin) responds to the receipt of a social signal of trust and is statistically related to trustworthy behavior. When the social signal of trust is removed, so are the OT response and the high degree of trustworthiness.
Our behaviour is a little more influenced by neurotransmitters than we'd like to believe. But the level of the neurotransmitters themselves are dictated by our environment, so it's a mechanism rather than a first cause.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Developments at the APA

The Annual American Psychiatric Association Meeting will be held in March May this year. From Psychiatric News February 20, 2009 Volume 44, Number 4, page 13:
The remaining symposium, "In or Out? A Discussion About Gender Identity Diagnoses and the DSM," will focus on diagnostic issues specific to gender identity disorder, particularly the issues of having gender identity disorder listed in DSM-V and the implications of removing it. Several leaders in the transgender community will speak at this symposium.
And from the program:
S6. "In or Out?": A Discussion About Gender Identity Diagnoses and the DSM (DSM Track DM03)

1. The DSM-V Revision Process: Principles and Progress William E. Narrow, M.D.
2. Beyond Conundrum: Strategies for Diagnostic Harm Reduction Kelley Winters, Ph.D.
3. Aligning Bodies With Minds: The Case for Medical and Surgical Treatment of Gender Dysphoria Rebecca Allison, M.D.
4. The Role of Medical and Psychological Discourse in Legal and Policy Advocacy for Transgender Persons in the U.S. Shannon P. Minter, J.D.
Does a condition that manifests as severe psychological distress, but which can be cured only through physical rather than psychiatric intervention really belong in a psychiatric diagnostic manual? The distress is real, and the dysfunction until treatment is given very real, even life-threatening. But what if the condition is actually biological?

There's something even more interesting from my viewpoint, and potentially of at least equal significance:
S10. The Neurobiological Evidence for Transgenderism

1. Brain Gender Identity Sidney W. Ecker, M.D.
2. Transsexuality as an Intersex Condition Milton Diamond, Ph.D.
3. Novel Approaches to Endocrine Treatment of Transgender Adolescents and Adults Norman Spack, M.D.
Dr Ecker was kind enough to draw my attention to this, and the bibliography he sent me will keep me busy for some time. Too bad my PhD's in Computer Science and not NeuroBiology. If it was, I'd have a pretty good beginning of a thesis by now. I'd also be able to attend the meeting, and these two symposia.

Oh well, back to these pesky genetic algorithms, instantiating generics and all the rest. Life's too short!