Consummate dilettantism!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Homosexuality, Polygamy, Incest

There's a very interesting argument going on in the comments of this post. Here's what I say:
And what, pray tell, is so abhorrent about polygamy? Moral collapse indeed — whence do our morals come? From a religion whose founder married his niece?

This particular hypocrisy has always struck me as very revealing.
“that the generalized logical and philosophical arguments made on behalf of same sex couples would apply to same-blood couples and loving triples, quadruples, and quintuples.”

Conversely, the same arguments that you use to advocate keeping homosexual marriage illegal also apply to loving sterile couples. I suppose the legality of their marriage “undermines society’s endorsement of the nuclear family” too.

I think Wehner has a point, but I don’t think it’s an argument against legalizing gay marriage. The proper counterargument is that polygamy and marriage involving multiple partners should likewise be legalized. And why not? As Wehner correctly notes, both are very traditional, even Biblical. What objections can be made? Genetic inferiority will result? Why not screen for genetic diseases and prevent those with them from marrying, then? The question is the burden of the individual, not the state. The argument only works if you have some sort of emotional revulsion towards these expressions of love.
“The argument, made by Lincoln and others, is that polygamy is inconsistent with the notions of human equality that support humane, liberal, republican government, and is instead part and parcel of illiberal and inhumane regimes that see some people as unequal, commodities, and in need of being ruled by others.”

Religiously mandated polygamy indeed! (A man can, however, beat one wife or three.) But polygamy doesn’t have to be religious. A wife may have two husbands, a husband two wives. The argument is like comparing having a maid to having a slave. Of course they are similar, but the different is that there is no compulsion involved in the former. Polygamy does not imply coercion. (Correlation does not imply causation.) It has been associated with it for a long time, but that does not mean that polygamy is *only* compatible under a coercive system.

CK, you frame the argument entirely in utilitarian terms. But we don’t live in a utilitarian state, nor would, I think, most of us want to. If we did, then everything mostly harmful to us would be illegal. But many things that hurt and kill (alcohol, tobacco, firearms, fireworks, &c) are legal. There is no evidence that gay marriage is “bad,” and even if there were, this would still not constitute an American argument for banning it, especially when the right to be with someone one loves is of a much higher and more important order than the right to get drunk or amuse yourself with colorful fire.
CK, etymology does not restrict words. Polygamy could well evolve into something healthy -- we don't know. Jeffs-style polygamy is truly despicable, but so is OJ Simpson-style monogamy.

nocubsno, so long as we prevent coercion from occurring, I don't think polygamy is any more dangerous than ordinary marriage. Any man in this country who is presently willing to live in such a relationship is probably not the type who would abuse his wives (except in Utah, where polygamy occurs *despite* its illegality). And why should one relationship be any stronger than two simultaneous relationships? Or three? Who knows -- maybe three partners together create a loving relationship infinitely superior to a dyadic one. But the only way to determine this is by experiment, and we can't say that monogamy is superior to polygamy without seeing what the latter is like in non-religious contexts. There is nothing special about polygamy that creates violence and control. (I should add that your argument about the specialness of heterosexuality to children also applies to couples who adopt. If couples can simply adopt children, there's no point in getting married, right? Today, however, marriage is about love, not procreation. Adoption is, after all, perfectly legal.)

Also, legality does not constitute endorsement, as we see with tobacco. The legality of polygamy, homosexuality, and incest would send a message of freedom of consensual arrangement to our children; it would not imply that polygamy, homosexuality, and incest are moral inferiors or superiors to, or coequals with, heterosexuality. The government would have no say in the matter.

"The exclusivity of marriage is important for other reasons that go to the heart of the sort of individuality that is characteristic of liberal regimes. Exclusivity means that parents can recognize and put their individual stamp upon their children. Similarly, children are not the product of some sort of communitarian or communal relationship, in which their identity with their parents is blurred into a tribal or national affiliation. That is why totalitarian societies attack the family. "

I think this is a strong argument, but I'm not advocating communal raising of children, and I don't believe that polygamy necessitates it. Again, however, parents are free to raise their children on communes today. Polygamy and homosexuality would not add any more communalism to the mix.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chatting, Again

[22:28] M: hey
[22:28] A: hi
[22:28] M: hey
[22:28] M: wats up
[22:30] A: god, every time people say "wat" i think of this:
[22:30] M: lol
[22:31] M: i have seen that som many times
[22:32] A: yeah, it's the biggest meme in the world...but it's so funny. the "wat" is so understated, so brilliant, so genius!
[22:39] M: yes
[22:39] A: no punctuation, nothing; just pure, raw emotion
[22:39] A: i can see his face
[22:39] M: u can feel the anger the confusion the sadness
[22:39] A: yeah, exactly!
[22:40] M: they should make a movie out of it
[22:41] A: dude..that's genius
[22:41] A: "wat"
[22:41] A: i can see it now
[22:41] M: after that it just cuts to the credits
[22:42] A:'re a fucking genius
[22:44] M: just a lonely guy looking for love
[22:44] M: he turns to the internet and finds only heartbreak
[22:44] A: awesome!!!!
[22:44] A: cue sad music*
[22:45] M: yeh
[22:45] A: fuck yer
[22:45] M: flashes back 2 child traumas
[22:45] A: teehee
[22:46] M: lets get martin scorseze to direct it

Friday, December 19, 2008

How Does He Do It?

A commenter asks:
Wow 7 back , thats some serious dedication. Question, do you just let it happen, or do you use active attention? I have heard that keeping a mental image doesn't work well.
I have also heard it said that doing dual n-back intuitively is the best way to do it. But I can't imagine that it's possible to let your unconscious mind take over entirely. As I said here:
I'm finding the task too easy. (By "easy" I mean that I can and know how to do it, not that it comes effortlessly. In fact, it requires a lot of effort on my part.) At first it was ferociously difficult, but now I'm just memorizing sequences of letters and visualizing them on the grid. (I'm not repeating them aloud, but I am rehearsing the letters and their places in my mind during the interludes.) To jump from 6 to 7 required only a little more concentration, not a shift in thought. [...] I've read what everyone has had to say on doing the task "intuitively," but I can't imagine how one can do 7 n-back [sic -- should be dual 7-back] like this. Without intense concentration and memorization, is it even possible? Is anyone able to do, say, 6 or 7 n-back without really trying?
I don't think so. I am presently able to do dual 3-back with a bare minimum of effort, and I consistently score 100% while paying only a little attention. But I don't do it intuitively; my mind has simply become accustomed to doing the task, and so memorizing the a sequence of 3 has become incredibly easy for me. I "chunk" the sequence -- I compare the current 3 blocks with the 3 blocks in memory while simultaneously memorizing the current 3 blocks. Not attempting to memorize anything is, I think, unrealistic. (But I do sometimes find my fingers being correctly compelled to press "A" or "L" when my conscious mind isn't sure of the answer. I find this fascinating.) I don't, however, make a mental image; I really just visualize the position of the blocks and memorize the sequence of letters. Intuitively, I guess, my mind knows the order of the positions; either that or I memorize the "line" of position progression, which I think is an excellent technique.

Interestingly enough, I find dual 3-back easier than dual 2-back. I'm not really sure why -- perhaps it's because I'm not actually memorizing a sequence in dual 2-back, and so it's easier to lose track of whether the present is really the present or not. It's hard to explain. Has anyone noticed anything similar?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Can't Do It [NSFW!]

Fuck you, internet!

I can't do it. I give up. Jesus Christ, dual n-back is boring and hard as fuck. Doing it for 20 minutes a day for the past few weeks has been utterly killer. I dread it more than anything in the world. But let me tell you something -- I've gotten up to dual 7-back the past few days. Let me repeat that: dual 7-back. Yeah, I thought it was impossible; it is assuredly not. Think dual 7-back is your grandma's game?

Think again, bitch.

Go ahead. Download the game and try it yourself. You'll probably fail at dual 2-back. But keep practicing and you'll get better.

As for that report I promised you on December 24th, well, it's not coming. [Yeah, fuck you too. -Ed.] I can't exercise like that, I just can't. Even dual n-back isn't sustainable.

But this is all in the spirit of experimentation, right? How do I feel? Has any of this worked? I can say that dual n-back has given me a boost of confidence (and possibly intelligence) -- I think mental math comes more easily, although this could of course be placebo. Whether it is or isn't, however, it's certainly welcome; if it is, then placebo is totally awesome and not to be underestimated. (You really do feel smarter when you do well in the game.) But fluid intelligence isn't necessary for any of my current classes; I'll be taking computer science next year, and may decide to take it up again then.

In the meantime, I'll be attempting to experiment on my own intelligence a little more with Rise of Nations and nootropics/assorted things. Will either work? Dunno -- check back right here in a month or two for results!

Now get me a Brompton cocktail or something. Goodnight!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I am 1337

During the month of December, white people face an especially difficult challenge. This is the year when parties and drinking are most appropriate, but the most obvious theme of Christmas must be avoided. This is because Christmas forces Christianity upon others, and though their ancestors had no problem with this activity, modern white people are quite disgusted by the idea. Hanukkah parties are fun, but a bit too exclusive, and a Kwanzaa Party requires an enormous amount of physical, mental, and ironic labor that can only be done by the most elite of white people.
Kwanzaa party at my place!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

How to Maximize Browsing Space in Firefox

Your typical Firefox installation looks something like this:This is very poor space management. Look at all that unused space you have at the top! There are a full three bars taking away from what you want to see (the website, obviously). You might dismiss this as trivial, but over time, more scrolling will mean more time wasted (trust me, it's worth it, especially if you use your web browser a lot). I'm going to show you how to compress all of the information in those three toolbars into one, so that you'll have something that looks like this (click to enlarge):It's all in one more efficient and conservative toolbar. Here's how to do it:

1. Right-click on the file menu and hit "Customize."
2. Move all of the items on the navigation toolbar, including the search box and address bar, to the right of the file menu.
3. Place all of the bookmarks from the bookmarks toolbar to the right of the search bar.
4. Press "Done" and remove the text from your bookmarks by right-clicking on each, selecting "Properties," and deleting the text in the "Name" field.
5. Right-click on the file menu and uncheck "Navigation Toolbar" and "Bookmarks Toolbar."

Voila! Now you've got yourself a slimmer copy of Firefox! If you're really into maximizing space, you can install the excellent Littlefox theme, which is expressly designed to save space, but I prefer the default theme.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dual N-Back Induces Meditation

I never got much out of traditional meditation. I was never able to sit still for that long, not out of a physical inability, but out of a mental one, and I have trouble sleeping for the same reason. (I like to talk to myself to get rid of irrelevant thoughts or to maintain focus on but one, and I think I would quickly go quite insane without doing so.) But performing the dual n-back task repeatedly for about 25 minutes puts me in an incredible, trance-like state. My breathing slows to a crawl, and all irrelevant thoughts are entirely eliminated from my mind. My attention is sharply focused on the game and on the game alone. What's more, the effect is lasting; though I am presently finished with the task, I feel it now.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

7-Hydroxymitragynine Versus Morphine

7-hydroxymitragynine is 13 times more potent than morphine, and yet is entirely unrelated structurally! Wow. Read the study here. It produced fewer withdrawal symptoms in mice than morphine did when intravenously administered daily and in increasingly large doses.

This is very impressive, and suggests that this molecule, a naturally occurring, psychoactive component of Mitragyna speciosa, may have significant medical potential. It is probably cheaper and easier to extract 7-hydroxymitragynine than morphine (considering the ridiculously low prices at which Kratom is being sold on the internet), which is certainly a good thing.

How to Tie a Bow Tie

1. Put the bow tie under your collar. Ensure that the two ends are of equal length.
2. Cross the ends. The right end should be on top.
3. Push the now-left end through the hole you've just created.
4. Pull it through, and once again ensure that the two ends are of equal length.
5. Fold the right end over itself. The loop should be pointing left.
6. Use your right hand to hold the loop in place while you use your left hand to place the left end over the loop and through the hole.
7. Gently pull the left loop through the hole. Be sure that you don't pull it too far, as it will come undone if you do.
8. Adjust as necessary. Tug at the ends and readjust to tighten.

Wear one and you assume the mantle of the nerdy, intelligent, socially awkward yet surprisingly cool student. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy; because you're treated that way, you begin to feel that way yourself. Use with caution.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ginger, Zingiber officinale

That's right, common ginger. It's not a psychoactive drug, but it's actually really neat. Used for thousands of years as an safe and healthy culinary spice and medicine, ginger has some very beneficial properties.

Ginger is said (and shown) to facilitate digestion and ward off nausea, so I got a fresh root. I often get motion sickness in cars and plans, especially while reading, so of course I wanted to start experimenting. On a plane, I began to feel nauseated, so I whipped out the ginger root that I had in my backpack and took a bite. Ah, what flavor! The pungency, the bitingly fresh taste! It was very tasty, actually; whether it did anything, I imagined, I could still enjoy this as a tasty and refreshingly revitalizing treat. But to my surprise it actually worked immediately and effectively; the nausea was gone forthwith. It could've been taste-induced placebo, but for the fact that the nausea was gone for too long.

Get some ginger! Now!

Pleasure: 2/5
Distortion: 1/5
Safety: 5/5
Price: 3/5
Usefulness: 5/5