Pseudo-Random Yuletide Observation

Only the geeks among you will get the “pseudo-random” bit!

Yeah, I know it seems early, but if you go anywhere but work and home, there’s all kinds of holiday crap out there.  And I confess to being a sap for the holidays, and it’s got me thinking:

The missus and I are entering our second Yule using our new LED tree lights, and we’re perfectly happy to do a little to lessen the strain on power resources and do minimal damage to the environment.  However, the real problem for me is that I’m very particular about the look of my tree: I don’t like primary colors at all, and prefer more blending, harmonious mixtures.

For years, I’ve used lights I got from some place online that were strings of two different color combinations: one called “Renaissance” and made up of green, teal, yellow and purple; the other was called “Frost,” and had clear, white frosted, teal and blue bulbs.  I put the Renn colors in the center and the Frost around the outside, and it looked amazing.

Well, now that we’ve switched over for environmental impact’s sake, I’m back to primary colors and I kinda hate it.  I actually like the piercingly direct and uniform color of LED lights, and they tend to shoot out long beams of color that make kinda cool patterns and shadows on the wall.

But I see no logical reason to have to sacrifice good color schemes for the environment, except to say that none of the LED manufacturers have managed any level of creativity.  Damnit!  Won’t anyone at GE hear my appeal?

Liberal and Conservative messaging – The limits of Reason

Riffing off’ve this post, Lets go over this quote again:

We can no longer conduct 21st century politics with a 17th century understanding of the mind…. In thinking, the old view comes originally from Descartes’ 17th Century rationalism. A view of thought as symbolic logic was formalized by Bertrand Russell and Gottlob Frege around the turn of the 20th Century, and a rationalist interpretation was revived by Chomsky in the 1950’s. In that view, thought is a matter of (as Pinker puts it) “old-fashioned … universal disembodied reason.” Here reason is seen as the manipulation of meaningless symbols, as in symbolic logic.

The new view is that reason is embodied in a nontrivial way. The brain gives rise to thought in the form of conceptual frames, image-schemas, prototypes, conceptual metaphors, and conceptual blends. The process of thinking is not algorithmic symbol manipulation, but rather neural computation, using brain mechanisms…

These questions matter in progressive politics, because many progressives were brought up with the old 17th Century rationalist view of reason that implies that, if you just tell people the facts, they will reason to the right conclusion–since reason is universal. We know from recent elections that this is just false. “Old-fashioned … universal disembodied reason” also claims that everyone reasons the same way, that differences in world-view don’t matter. But anybody tuning in to contemporary talk shows will notice that not everybody reasons the same way and that world-view does matter.

AFAIK, cognitive scientists, psychologists, and others have known this for a long time: In fact, I think part of the point of those fields is exploring the extent in which people do not reason and are irrational.

So the basis of our political thought: competing on issues, a focus on facts, and the assumption that the checks and balances work, rely on people being reasonable and acting rationally.

That’s the mistake.

I remember a post on The Albany Project that, to summarize, agrued that the Bruno-Spitzer spat showed how checks and balances aught to work. Though Cuomo is a Democrat, he rationally seeks his own best interests and doesn’t pull the punches on Spitzer, shoring up his credentials and boosting his political standing. The problem with Congress these days, furthermore, is that Republicans in Congress aren’t acting rationally. They’re ceding their own power to the Executive, though they would rationally try to keep it for themselves.

So – we assume people act rationally and through reason. That model isn’t right, and our understanding of the mind has advanced. What model do we use now?

I’m no cognitive scientist, but the model I tend to favor is the Triune Brain model

Basically, we have three brains in one, the outer/neocortex, middle/limbric, and inside/reptilian brains. The Reptilian brain controls basic functions and instincts. It is

rigid, obsessive, compulsive, ritualistic and paranoid, it is “filled with ancestral memories”. It keeps repeating the same behaviours over and over again, never learning from past mistakes

This is your “fight or flight” brain, the instinctive, reflexive one.

The limbric (middle) brain is the one that concerns emotions and instincts, and deals with finding pleasure or avoiding pain.

The outer brain, or neocortex, is the “reasoning brain”. The brain that makes you human. The one that thinks in the abstract, has higher-order thinking, etc.

The battle between Limbric and Neocortex messaging

The neocortex, or our conscious brain, is really weaker/subservient to the lower two.

Therefore pure Reason is vulnerable: it has a positional disadvantage to flights of passion or the madness of fear.

Why do you think the Republicans foster a culture of fear? They want to influence voters by stimulating their powerful “reptile” brains.

We all know that charisma has a large role in the process of people choosing candidates. There’s a study (or more) out there that shows that voters generally pick a candidate using ephermeal “gut feelings”, and then justify it to themselves by trying to agree with said candidate on the issues.

The story-arc and the power of narrative use both the limbric brain and neocortex. Reason is all neo-cortex.

What Lakoff is saying is that framing uses the limbric brain, and if you frame an issue in a reasonable, truthful way, you’d use the limbric brain and neocortex against the fear-addled reptilian brain. Do it right, and the forces of “good” (those one Lakoff’s side) will prevail in the war of persuasion.

It’s interesting that the progressive online community has a similar idea, which they’ve been re-iterating for a while since the whole DLC/YearlyKos battle started heating up. These guys want proud Democrats to expound on their values, stick to their guns, and speak from the heart. The DLC, on the other hand, uses polling and focus groups and so on to find out how much candidates need to move to the right in order to appeal on the issues to the most people.

That’s why Democrats following the DLC advice (such as Harold Ford Jr) lose elections, and Democrats following the netroots’ model (such as Tester, Webb) win.

The DLC tries to find the perfect blend of issues to win. While this might work for the neocortex, the limbric brain sees things differently. If a candidate moves to the right, the limbric brain understands that the candidate is acknowledging that the conservative position is superior to the liberal position. Otherwise, why would the candidate back down?

The Progressive model, while still keeping a sound rational policy that pleases the neocortexes of voters, keeps the candidate in the ideological territory he/she is comfortable in, rather than an “alien” one that focus groups impose. A candidate comfortable in arguing and expanding on his/her beliefs sends a message of strength and resoluteness to the limbric brain.

It’s true that voters seek strength in their elected officials. But the strength they want is the strength of character that the limbric/reptilian brain picks up on, not the “strength” of caving in to political pressure and warping FISA, for example.

The progressive hope: Limbric vs Reptilian
There was a great post on RT by J a while ago, called “The Republican Culture of Fear”, or something or another. I think we can agree, however, that there is a modern Republican Fear Agenda

Fear of Gays, fear of Blacks, fear of Browns, fear of Athiests, fear of Arabs, fear of terrorists, fear of Muslims, fear of inner cities, fear of the future, fear of “the other”

As you read the obituaries of Rove floating around, you’ll find some writing about how he exploited fear. Some people say that Rove isn’t a political genius as much as unscrupulously underhanded: he’s not afraid to push those fear buttons as often as he wants.

Fear is great for Republicans. It unifies the party. It allows them to get away with quite a load of really bad stuff. Fear also is a great way to manipulate the powerful reptilian brain.

Aside: It’s telling that the Bene Gesserit in Frank Herberts Dune, a group that strove to elevate their reasoning over their “baser” brains and so forth, had this to say about fear:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

So, Republicans: Great with the fear. Watch Fox News sometimes. You’ll see what I mean.
Hate is another good reptilian trigger. Same deal. Especially regarding Fox News & Falafel Boy.

Democrats shouldn’t use the politics of fear. I don’t think it’s ethical.
However, they should be aware and utilize the limbric brain. Stuff like body language and charisma count. They should be aware of framing and so forth. But most importantly, they have to remember that communication goes much farther than the words they say. Show the Limbric brain that you’re the strong, honest communicator by being comfortable with your positions. Argue for them. Defend yourself and be aware of the Republican “bitch-slap” theory of politics.

I’m tired now. That’s enough thinking for today. Goodnight!

Our Iraq Policy

According to this poll of D.C. insiders, Tom Toles, editorial cartoonist, is the 48th most powerful person in Washington. You can see his cartoons online here.

Skimming through the last month or so of his cartoons, I liked this one the best:
Iraq attack



Dig this! (or better yet, Digg This!) Sometimes, the new regime of “nice URLs” can be just damned funny. I’m sure that many a blog has had some inadvertent humor in their links, including this one. But CNN seems to have a peach on their hands. Check the latest from the Political Ticker:

Republicans upset with intelligence study on global warming || – CNN Political Ticker

WASHINGTON (CNN) — House Intelligence Committee Republicans are upset about a Democratic proposal to require a study of the effects of global warming on national security. The provision is part of the intelligence authorization bill passed by the full committee earlier this week.

Now, the fact is that Global Warming can have a huge impact on our national security as indeed even the NSA has predicted in the past. I can’t imagine what they’re so upset about. . . unless of course it’s that whole “global warming is a myth” charade?

But the best part – the absolutely hands-down, knee-slapping best part – is the way CNN’s server edited the title for the URL:

Yeah, and they’re giving wisdom the cold shoulder, too!

Technorati Tags: , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Bored, Doo-be-Doo, Bored, Bored. . .

I’m so freakin’ bored, doo-be-doo, bored, bored. . . .

There’s nothing out there I want to talk about today.  But I don’t want to let the blog go silent, so I had to come up with something.  So, I’ve been doing a little Stumbling for entertainment.  Would you like to know when an arbitrary computer program thinks you’re going to die?  Of course, we all do.  So check out The Death Clock for giggles.  Or how about just a really cool simulation, like a wave simulator?  Definitely check this one out, especially for the three-D animation.  Trippy, dude.

You’re bored enough that you wish you could just teleport your ass right out of your office (god, I know I do).  Make it so, Mr. Warf!  Check out the latest in quantum mechanical science that allows for genuine, 100% Star Trek teleportation. 

DIY Transporter room, . . . . engage!

There’s a site on broken stuff.  Fascinating.  And for you Phillip Morris fans, there’s a smoking monkey.  Then there’s this thing, which is both stupid and disconcertingly addictive.  Boing!  And if you’ve ever wondered how the Republican Machine finds it’s next political strategist, well it turns out they’re conveniently located in the Google Directory.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Ubuntu, Baby! / Lilac Festival / Reef Tank

It’s a big weekend here at the Belknap household.  Sarah and I have been working on a new reef tank for the last few weeks, and things are going great.  Salt-water fish tanks are something akin to farming in many respects: it’s all about having patience and letting things happen little by little.

We bought the tank a few weeks ago, got our place in the apartment cleared out, found an acceptable table for the tank (it’s a 24 gallon AquaPod so we used an old sewing table we got at a garage sale) and filled it with water.  We spent the next two weeks getting the temperature and salination balanced out, and yesterday we got our first reef rocks.  Now, we just stare at the reef rocks with amazement.  Funny how such simple things can be so exiting.

Soon enough, we’ll have the tank stocked with blennies, gobies, sea-horses, maybe a shrimp or two and some corals.  Little by little, things begin to come together. . . .

Meanwhile, a friend at work gave me a copy of the Ubuntu operating system trial CD.  It’s basically a full-functioning version of the operating system that loads directly off the CD so you can check it out.  Rottenchester, Paige and I were discussing Ubuntu’s benefits and pitfalls earlier this week.  My major concern is my new printer, since almost every other thing I do on this computer has an analog on Linux.  However, I suppose I’m going to need to dual-boot for a while, because I’m finding that the only really good Windows emulator for Linux costs about $190 bucks.

But damn, I love the look and feel of Ubuntu.  And I am positively dying to get away from Microsoft.

And of course, this week is the Lilac Festival!  I’m psyched to go and watch the BuddhaHood play at 12:30 this afternoon.  I’m thinking that they’re going to have a hell of a crowd this time around, since the weather is amazing for this time of year.  I’ll be bringing back some pictures of the show and other things, and I’ll be sure to post them to my Flickr account and share with the group!

Slow News Day Alert!

Well, sometimes keeping on top of what’s going on in Rochester is not too terribly difficult. . .

Democrat & Chronicle: Local News

April 11, 2007 3:59 pm — BRIGHTON — A Subway restaurant could open as early as June in the Twelve Corners Plaza, said a Subway spokesman.

It’s one of many changes at the plaza, which recently underwent renovations and added Panera Bread, a mutual fund store and a FedEx Kinko’s. One of its older tenants, Starbucks Coffee, moved a few doors down in the plaza and expanded.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Why, Oh Why Is the World So Cruel?

Don Imus has been suspended.  The mind reels: what the hell was he doing that he was suspended from again?  Oh, yeah.  Radio talk show host.  Not a good one, just a host.  Kind of like that douche from Rochester.  What was his name again?  Monkey man?

Well, whatever.  What a cruel world that people who get paid to do nothing of note should be suspended for doing something of note.  That just doesn’t seem fair, though I suppose that actually generating interest may have been outside the bounds of his job description.

News: Don Imus Suspended For Two Weeks: No Radio, No TV For Imus – The Post Chronicle

Don Imus Update – Don Imus suspended for two weeks from both TV and Radio. Don Imus appeared on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show today, five days after he made racially charged comments on his “Imus In The Morning” show about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

“Racially charged?” What about edgy?  Why can’t it just be “edgy?”  It’s because he’s white, isn’t it?  Being held down by the man, Imus is.

Or, perhaps the whole flap got started when someone realized that he looks like Dr. Who?  Copyright infringement?  That could do it. . . .

Technorati Tags: ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Easter Sunday Sci-Fi

Man, screw the stupid rabbits.  Let’s talk turkey.

Who is the best pilot in the galaxy?  C’mon, you know you have favourites.  Well, has come up with a list.  Maybe I’m just getting old, but I don’t get why half the people on this list are here.  But then, of course, the list starts with the only logical choice: » Blog Archive » The Best Pilots in the Galaxy

1. Han Solo (from Star Wars) – Easily the best pilot, and he knows it. I’d include Luke too for his X-Wing flying, but he uses The Force. Isn’t that cheating? Would he actually be as good a pilot if he didn’t use The Force?

Damn straight.  And Starbuck is on there, as is Buck Rogers.  But where is Captain Okita?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Thought of the Day

This was sent to me by a friend studying at Columbia University.  Thanks, Noel:

But now science, spurred on by its powerful delusion, hurtles inexorably towards its limits where the optimism hidden in the essence of logic founders. For the periphery of the circle of science has an infinite number of points and while there is no telling yet how the circle could ever be fully surveyed, the noble and gifted man, before he has reached the middle of his life, still inevitably encounters such peripheral limit points and finds himself staring into an impenetrable darkness. If he at that moment sees to his horror how in these limits logic coils around itself and finally bites its own tail – then the new form of knowledge breaks through, tragic knowledge, which in order to be tolerated, needs art as a protection and remedy.

Nietzsche – the Birth of Tragedy

Technorati Tags: , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Pre-Vacation Observation

Well, OK.  It’s just a long weekend, but for one such as I who have been in training at a new job for lo this past month and a half, it feels like vacation. . .

Every sci-fi movie seems to suggest that, in the future, we’ll all shop at the exact same store and that store will only sell skin-tight body suits.  Uniforms, really.  We’ll have a choice of colors, but that’s it.

Yet the most futuristic thing to happen to most of us, the IT revolution, has done the exact opposite for the work-a-day world.

It used to be that there was a “blue-collar” and a “white collar” job.  Those blue collars came from the worker’s jumpsuit that they’d wear to protect their clothing; those white collars were heavily starched cotton locked in the death grip of a silk tie.  But when the Dot Com boom happened, companies were in such a panic to make sure that they had enough smart IT guys that they dropped those standards completely.

Yes, there were “dress-down Fridays” before.  But that meant not wearing a tie.  Here I sit in the middle of a major Rochester company’s main headquarters in jeans and sneakers.  The girl a few cubes over is in sweat cloths.  So, does this mean that in the future I’ll be able to come to work in my PJs, or what?

Whoa! Someone Alert Rick Santorum!

Elsewhere in the world (like Europe, that din of iniquity), it appears that people are starting to grant Chimps “Human Rights”:

Slashdot | Should Chimps Have Human Rights?

“A Brazilian court has already issued a writ of habeas corpus in the name of a chimp. And now an Austrian court may well decide that a chimpanzee is a ‘person’ with what up until now have been called human rights.”

Next thing you know, they’re going to let “the gays” vote!

In all seriousness, though.  This has some interesting implications.  My personal view is that all living things have rights, but of course if that’s true, does this eventually mean we will have to pay reparations to the buffalo?  We are recognized as having the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and we rebel against any attempt to manage our lives.  But providing any of those things to folks without opposable thumbs necessarily means managing wildlife.

The thing is, at the risk of sounding like a Conservative, this is one of those “slippery slope,” kind of deals.  Once you acknowledge the rights of primates as a singular thing, you’ll not long after need to recognize the rights of all living things.  That’s good news for crabgrass, but think of the end game!

What would this do, for example, to the definition of murder?  Are we going to have crocodiles serving time on death row?  Well, finally the Conservatives could get the turnover rate they’re looking for. . . .

OK, it’s obvious I need a vacation. . . .

Technorati Tags: , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.