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The Russians I’m Not Absolving

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Department Of Scapegoating

Moiself  would like nothing better than to wake up tomorrow morning to the news that Vladimir Putin has

* kicked the KGB bucket
* cashed in his commie chips
* bit the Chernoyl dust,
* bought the fascist farm,
* given up the glasnost ghost
* won his last rabid dog lookalike ® contest…

 

 

 

you know – died.  Whether through “natural” means or otherwise; hey, I’m not picky.

Still, it doesn’t seem…wise…or right…or fair…or historically accurate, to blame Russia’s assault against Ukraine solely on that festering turd of a genocidal despot one leader.

Russia is a big ass country.  Even with an oligarchy-stained kleptocracy of a dictatorship masquerading as a federal republic, moiself  doesn’t think the P-boy can do what he’s doing unless he’s got a whole lotta other Russians – if not the majority – on his side.

This is the 21st century, and Russia is not North Korea.  In “First World” countries whose people have access to First World technologies (internet; cellphones) is impossible to completely control the narrative; it is impossible to make the majority of the Russian populace believe that Ukrainians are “neo-Nazis”,  or the other delusional justifications the P-pants-boy offers for invading a sovereign country, unless there are those who, for whatever reasons, want to believe such bizarre, totally unsubstantiated falsehoods.

Are Russians who support their country’s actions also victims (of P-face’s propaganda), as I have heard more than one person surmise,?  Or are they collaborators?  I’m not sure it matters, at this point.  Not to the dead Ukrainians, that’s for sure.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Thanks For The Imagery

Dateline: Saturday, March 26; circa 7:45 am; morning walk; listening to the People I Mostly Admire podcast’s latest episode:  No One Can Resist A Jolly, Happy Pig.  Host Steven Levitt is interviewing naturalist and author Sy Montgomery, who gets the following introduction on the PIMA website:

My guest today is bestselling author and naturalist Sy Montgomery. The Boston Globe describes her as “part Indiana Jones and part Emily Dickinson.” Her best-known book is The Soul of an Octopus, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2015. But she’s written about everything from tarantulas to hyenas to hummingbirds to pink dolphins. And as far as I can tell, she’s fallen in love with every one of them.

Levitt asks Montgomery how she got to where she is, in her profession – combining her two loves, of journalism and animals. Montgomery talks about visiting various people she knows who devote their lives to studying some obscure species, including a friend who is currently studying “the southern hairy-nosed wombat”…

…which caused moiself  to actually speak the following picture’s caption aloud.  To moiself, but ALOUD.

 

“Hey, Buford, y’all going to the barn dance tonight?”

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Department Of Dietary Motivations

Back to the above-referenced podcast: Montgomery’s years of study of numerous animal species has caused her to refer to these animals as “people” (in aggregate) or “somebody” in particular. She explains her vocabulary choice:  not only do many of the scientists who study these animals attribute consciousness and emotion to them, but scientists who study animal brains consistently find the same or remarkably similar neurotransmitters and hormones that, in primates such as our homo sapiens selves, are responsible for the production and transmission of emotions.

 

 

Montgomery and Levitt had an interesting back-and-forth about such discoveries and attributions.  (Excerpts from their discussion; my emphases.)

LEVITT:
Now, I’m no expert on ethology, which is the study of animal behavior, but I suspect that the scholars in that area might be upset by your books….  I’m sure they would consider it a no-no to anthropomorphize animals, but that’s not even exactly what you do. You speculate about the unique ways each creature might experience the world. Am I right that some scientists complain that you go too far in that direction?

MONTGOMERY:
It’s not so much the scientists, but sometimes it’s the philosophers because they want humans to be the top of everything. Now, it is true that in science they use different words than I would use. Of course, in their scientific journals, they have different readers than I’m going to have, but things have changed a bit since, for instance, Jane Goodall first published her findings about tool use in chimps. No one wanted to publish that groundbreaking paper because she named her chimps instead of numbering them.

LEVITT:
Woah. Uh-huh.

MONTGOMERY:
Now things have changed…. There actually is a field of study that’s looking into animal personalities. I went on a personality survey with some of the top octopus researchers in the world…The person who headed that study…was the one who pointed out to me that if we fail to talk about emotions in animals, we are overlooking a central fact of neurobiology. And that is that every animal that has ever been studied, when you try to look for the hormones or neurotransmitters responsible for all of our feelings, like joy and fear, like stress and love, we find the exact same neurotransmitters. Even in taxa as different from ourselves, as octopuses, from whom we have been separated for half a billion years of evolution.

 

 

LEVITT:
The scientific, conventional wisdom for decades, hundreds of years, insisted that humans were unique on so many dimensions, like consciousness, the use of tools, ability to problem solve. Do you have a take on how these past scientists just got things completely wrong?

MONTGOMERY:
Yeah. I think it’s human supremacy, just like white supremacy. We wanted to be at the top, which would justify our exploitation of everybody else….

LEVITT:
Here’s something I strongly suspect will happen. When people look back in a hundred or 200 years, they will be shocked and dismayed at the cruelty that our society subjects animals to with factory farming. Do you agree?

MONTGOMERY:
A hundred percent. We will be appalled. And that’s why I became vegetarian years ago. Now there are farms that raise animals and slaughter animals in a more humane way, but I’m still delighted that I’m not eating them.

LEVITT:
You made a really powerful case for the wonder of pigs. Do you think for people whose goal it is get away from factory farming that maybe the strategy they should be taking is trying to teach people about the wonderful personality that pigs have?

MONTGOMERY:
Oh, I have gotten so many letters from people telling me that my book was the end of their bacon. And also, after Soul of an Octopus, many people wrote and said, “You know what? I used to love to eat octopus. I don’t eat it anymore.”

I love food and I love making food, but the taste of that item is on your tongue for less than a minute before you swallow something else. And for someone to lose their life for a taste on your tongue, that just seems like an enormous waste when there’s so many other delicious and nourishing things that we could have and not take away somebody’s life, somebody who thinks and feels and knows.

 

 

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Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know

“She holds a PhD in neuroscience, but I couldn’t find whether she ever actually worked as a neuroscientist. It’s obvious that her understanding of ‘strong science’ doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. I doubt if she reads Science-Based Medicine or understands the principles we go by.”
Harriet Hall, MD aka “The SkepDoc”   [1]  )

 

 

Any claim that has the word “actually” in it must be true.

 

Moiself  saw a commercial the other day in which Mayim Bialik, the child actor turned adult actor turned part-time Jeopardy host,  has apparently now become a vitamin supplement shill. The ad was for Neuriva-Plus, a supplement which, its manufacturers claim, can make you smarter by increasing brain levels of “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF, and shame on you for thinking that the acronym refers to some kind of S & M practice).

Why should you trust the celebrity who is promoting such a product?  Well, you silly goose, because the ad begins thusly:

“I’m Mayim Bialik, and I love brains.  It’s why I became a neuroscientist.”

 

 

Uh, yes.  Several spring to mind. 

Elsewhere Bialik has also claimed:

“Neuriva Plus is backed by strong science — yes, I checked it myself —
and it combines two clinically tested ingredients that help support six key indicators of brain health.”

Not only does Bialik claim to be a neuroscientist, in another, longer Neuriva ad she describes herself as, “America’s favorite neuroscientist” 

 

 

Ooooooookaaaaaaay.

Bialik went to college, studied neuroscience at UCLA, took a break from studies to return to acting, returned to school to earn her Doctor of Philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA, had two children, then went back to acting.   [2]  But nowhere in her (admittedly impressive) resumé can I find any reference to her working in the field of neuroscience.

I’m not concerned about how many reputable sources, including Psychology Today, have called the product Bialik is endorsing “Neuriva nonsense” and “just another snake oil.”   [3]    Moiself assumed that from the get-go.

 

 

Rather, I’m curious about the validity of her claim to be a “neuroscientist” when she doesn’t appear to be doing neuroscience.  She studied neuroscience; I get that.  But she’s not doing neuroscience.

I’m wondering what actual (ahem) neuroscientists might think. Sam Harris? Brenda Milner? Any other neuroscientists care to weigh in on this?

If you go to law school, get your law degree ( a J.D. in the USA ), then become a carpenter – i.e., for whatever reasons you decide you want to earn a living crafting furniture and do not practice law, either with a firm or in a partnership or by “hanging out your shingle” (solo practice) – is it accurate to say about yourself,

“I actually am a lawyer.”

 

“Don’t blame this one on me.  You want snake oil?  I’ll show you some snake oil.”

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Snake Oil Edition

Which snakes are best at mathematics?
Adders.

I got mugged by a cobra when I was walking through the park.
I told the police I couldn’t recognize it in a lineup, as it was wearing a hood.

Why don’t rattlesnakes drink coffee, or any caffeinated beverages?
Because it makes them viperactive.     [4]

What do you call a snake that builds houses?
A boa constructor.

 

*   *   *

May you never feel compelled to refer to yourself as an “actual” anything;
May you have fun imagining a southern hairy-nosed wombat;
May you be delighted by those creatures which you choose not to eat;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Hall is a retired family physician who researches and writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices.

[2] as per her Wikipedia bio.  

[3] “Mayim Bialik’s Neuriva Commercials Make Questionable Claims,” Science-based Medicine, 7-6-21

[4] No snake footnotes here.

The Control I’m Not Achieving

Comments Off on The Control I’m Not Achieving

Department Of The Summer Olympics Are Over…

….and moiself  be going through withdrawal.

 

“What do you mean, there’s no volleyball game on tonight?!?!?”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Stop Doing This

Dateline Monday 6:50 am Morning walk. Heard the term “aviatrix” used to refer to Amelia Earhart, and it got my lady-parts in a knot.

Aviatrix, my tail feathers. No…no no no – stop this right now.   [1]

Seems to me we’ve had this conversation before, in this space.   [2]

Unless you are living in a Masterpiece Theater production of Downton Abbey, this *is* the twenty-first century.

 

 

– enne

-ess

– ette

– trix

Thou shalt refrain thy ass from using any the above, and any other suffix used to form “feminine” nouns or adjectives – the application of which reinforces the mistaken and sexist notion of male default.

There are male and female lions and tigers.  Just say so; none of this “lioness” and “tigress” shit.   [3]    Female pilots are pilots, not pilot-esses.  My doctor is not my doctress.

Female-gender-denoting suffixes convey the implicit message that occupations – or mere states of being – are inherently male; thus, females are something special that need to be noted.  If you (for some inexplicable reason) name me as the executor of your estate, then I will be the grown-ass woman doing the job of executor. I will not be your execu-trix

 

Silly Rabbit….

 

Why is this important?, some clueless buffoons curious persons may ask?  As moiself  has harangued remarked in a previous post:

It’s important because girls often grow up into women who lack the confidence to move through the world as easily and powerfully as men do, because they don’t think that the world belongs to them.  Unintentionally and sometimes deliberately, girls get presented with skewed perceptions of their “place” – even of simply how many of them there are  [4]   –  in the world.  In the images and examples girls *and* boys are shown, the default for everything is male, especially if the thing in question is perceived as being big and powerful.

It’s important because a person will want to care for the world and that which is in the world, to seek education and take action – from studying to be a geologist to learning to do their own basic auto maintenance and repairs – if they think these things are truly and equally theirs.  If it belongs to you, then you feel a sense of responsibility for it. Despite the progress made in the past few decades, girls (and boys) still look at the world, at the images and descriptions presented to them, and see it as primarily belonging to, and inhabited and ruled by, boys and men.

“I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.”
(George Bernard Shaw)

*   *   *

Department of Trigger Warnings

 


TW: Grief-and-death anecdote ahead.

 

Dateline: sometime last week, listening to the podcast, People I Mostly Admire.  Host Steven Levitt and guest Aicha Evans  were discussing …” the big promises the A.V. industry hasn’t yet delivered — and the radical bet Zoox (the driverless vehicle company of which Evans is CEO) is making on a driverless future. ”  [5]

The subject of driverless vehicles is one on which I have (surprise!) more than a few thoughts (some of which I might deal with next week).  But moiself  never made it through the episode.  I got sidetracked during the halfway point of the podcast, at the Q & A section, where host Levitt and his guest read letters from listeners who’ve sent in questions relating to previous episodes.

Several weeks ago, Levitt conjectured an inverse relationship between the need for feeling control in somebody’s life and how happy that somebody is. Levitt then said that he had changed in his own life (regarding the feeling of the need for control); that he was happier now than he used to be. Several listeners asked questions about Levitt’s comment.  The question Evans chose to read to Levitt came from one such listener, who wrote “… that she would love to hear you elaborate on how you were able to let go of the need to feel in control all the time.” Levitt responded that he did have an answer to her question, although he warned listeners that it was a bit “heavier” than they might be expecting.

I was glad to hear the careful phrasing about the need for *feeling* you are in control, rather than, the need to be in control.  Recognizing the difference is the key to managing that feeling, because if you think control under all circumstances is possible…there is at least one self-help book out there that you need to read.   [6]

Oncd again, moiself digresses.  In answer to the question, Levitt said two events in his life have profoundly affected the way he thinks about control.  He briefly mentioned the first one, [7]  then said, “it’s going to get heavy.”

“The other experience in my life that deeply affected the way I think about control was by far the most tragic thing that’s ever happened to me.  I had a son named Andrew; he died suddenly, nine days after his first birthday, from meningitis – completely out of the blue.

And I had always feared something like that – losing my child was probably the deepest fear that I had. And I wish that I could say that the reason I could let go of control was that ‘my worst fear came true and it turned out not to be that bad…’   But actually, it was the opposite.

My worst fear came true, and losing a child was *so* much worse than I ever imagined it would be, and really, the only escape from that for me was surrender – surrender to the universe.

And it was just…the pain and the loss was so great…I just kind of gave up. And I don’t even know if that will make sense to people listening, but to move on in life, I just gave in to it, I just gave in to the idea that I had no control, that I was nothing, that the world was going to do what it was going to do to me, and I had no choice but to accept that.

And there was virtually nothing good that came out of his dying, but I have since then been more or less free of the need for control…and I wish it could have happened in any other way than the way it happened.”

 

I don’t know about y’all, but right now I need a picture of sloths hugging.

 

*   *   *

 

*   *   *

Department Of Music Appreciation 101

Bassist Dusty Hill of the rock band ZZ Top died last week.  When asked to describe the sound of his particular playing style, Hill once said,

“It’s like farting in a trashcan. Raw, big, heavy, and a bit distorted.”
(The Week, 8-13-21)

 

Hey, what’s going on in there?

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Music Bands Edition

If Iron, Arsenic, Lead, Mercury, and Cadmium formed a musical group,
would they be a heavy metal band?

Four magicians formed a band which plays Swedish pop music from the 1970s.
They call themselves Abba-Cadabra.

Have you heard the Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band,
composed wholly of sheep and cow musicians?
They do a great version of “Baa Moo Rising.”

 

Keep staring; maybe we can make her stop.

*   *   *

May you excise enne/ess/ette/trix from your vocabulary;
May your musicianship never be described with flatulence analogies;
May you, in all circumstances, be comforted by pictures of baby sloths;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And shame on a so-called “science” podcast, which should know better.  Yep, I’m talkin’ *you,* Curiosity Daily.

[2] Or perhaps it’s always been more of a lecture than a conversation.

[3] Do you say Puma-ess, or bobcat-ette?

[4] The world human population male/female ratio consistently hovers around 50-50,  but you wouldn’t know that if your only statistic in this matter came from your consumption of popular media, where the male characters consistently and overwhelmingly outnumber the female.

[5] Evans is the first female African-American CEO of such a company company.

[6] Or write.

[7] A trip Levitt took to India, which he said he had spoken of at length in a previous episode with Sam Harris (and he’d let listeners, if they were interested, look up the episode).