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Topics - Golden Applesauce

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Apple Talk / From the trophy generation
« on: December 16, 2011, 03:16:07 am »

quick responses to Smug Blackboard Guy first:

Rule 1 - I (think) I was beginning to figure this one out around kindergarten.  Definitely got it by the time 6th grade rolled around.

Rule 3 - Part A:  Maybe when you were a kid this was remotely possible, but (in America) we average 25k+ of debt after college.  None of us ever thought we could jump on the career train with only a highschool diploma.  Part B: They're called "cell phones," and we got them without earning them because your generation bought them for us.  I'm sure you had your reasons.

Rule 4 - Debatable.  Insane teachers seem to last longer than insane middle managers.  Probably has something to do with tenure and the difficulty of evaluating teacher performance.

Rule 5 - Point taken on "dignity," but it is beneath that college degree we all need now.  By that I mean that if after taking off 4-6 years and taking on tens of thousands of dollars in debt, if all we can land is burger flipping, at best we'll be able to tread water until that first major illness/pregnancy, cuz, y'know, no health insurance.  We economically cannot afford to take minimum wage jobs.  Instead, we work unpaid internships.  Go figure.

Rule 6 - I didn't learn this in school, but then I never learned that my problems were a result of my parents either.

Rule 7 - We don't have time to complain about the rainforest, because the politicians you keep electing can barely deal with the crises they manufacture themselves.  If something doesn't improve before the water shortage hits someone with a real military, a lot of us are going to die.

Rule 9 - Actually true.

Rule 10 - They do teach this in upper level marketing/poli-sci classes, but relatively few of us take those, so I'll concede the point: Unlike in television, the world is not locked in a manichean struggle between liberals and conservatives, east and west, citizens and illegal immigrants, and Christians and everyone else.  Al-Qaeda doesn't have the manpower in our borders to pull off a school shooting (much less the Anthrax scare) , universal health care is not the first step towards Auschwitz, and none of the countries we've invaded have ever posed existential threats to us or our freedoms.  What, you thought the sitcoms were where the fiction is?

Rule 11 - Or if you do bully them, make sure you're sufficiently thorough, in which case they off themselves.  Works on gays too.

Rule 2 - The world does not care about your self-esteem.  The world expects you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

Rule 8 - Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not.  In some schools they have abolished failing grades, and give you as many times as you want to get the correct answer.  This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

You and the rest of your "winning is the only thing" buddies can get the fuck off of my planet.  I will feel good about myself whenever I damn well please.  Your attempts have to make performance a prerequisite for happiness have been recognized as the emotional blackmail it is.  You fear the so-called "trophy-movement" because self-confident individuals are harder to manipulate, not because it in any way weakens the participants.

First off, schools can't do away with the notion of winners and losers, for the simple reason that children are the most judgmental and cruel demographic on the planet.  Kids figure out pretty quickly that the sleep-over and birthday party invites are vastly more important than participation trophies.  Everyone knows who the popular ones are, just as they know who the stupid and/or fat ones are in their classroom... and no number of passing grades or special olympics trophies will change their mind.

Schools are trying, though, because the (ideal) function of a school isn't to sort people into failures and successes, but to turn people who otherwise would have become a "failure" into a success story.  You seem to be under the impression that schools should harshly punish failures because the real world is that unforgiving.  Which is false; the only fatal mistakes you can make are the ones that literally kill someone.  Otherwise, sports teams would disband after any season they didn't win a championship.  Telling people that they only have one shot to get something right or their life is ruined just makes them more anxious, more likely to cheat and more likely to take a second shot to the brain pan when they inevitably fail.  If there is only one lesson that schools can teach, it should be that the path to success lies through failure, and that there really are second chances.

Philosophy aside, making students do things until they do it right works.  The best professor I ever had took this approach - he had frequent quizzes and tests.  If, after reviewing the tests, he didn't think that students understood the material, he'd give them the test again on the next day.  And he'd keep doing it until people started passing. For some quizzes, he'd even let the students work in small groups on retakes (so the students could learn from each other - P2P knowledge transfer.)  He wouldn't move on to the next chapter in the textbook until he was satisfied that the students understood what was happening in the previous one.  He understood that a teacher should be teaching the material rather than flunking the students who don't already know it, and that "failure" in this context meant not a bad test grade moving on to the next course in the sequence without the proper grounding.  The end result was a body of students who understood basic physics, rather than a body of students who had given up on physics as "too hard."

Last thoughts before I fall asleep (sorry if this has become progressively disjointed) - people avoid failure.  They avoid and drop classes that will hurt their GPA, even if they'd be educational; when they can't avoid a test in the first place, they start rationalizing the failure away with self handicapping.  Attach serious failure to education, and people decide that television is safer.

Wait - no - the most important thing is that this guy thinks children should be divided into winners and losers.  And that's evil.

Techmology and Scientism / Pi is wrong; long live Tau!
« on: July 24, 2011, 09:38:15 pm »

I'd quote the manifesto, but it makes heavy use of math formatting that won't go over well to BBCode, so I'll try to summarize it.

Basically, the number pi is cute but isn't the right circle constant.  pi is only half of a circle; there are 2pi radians in a circle, sine and cosine have period 2pi, the circumference of a circle is 2pi*r, it's area is (1/2)*(2pi)*r^2, and e^[2pi*i] = 1.  2pi shows up basically everywhere in probability, quantum physics, geometry, etc.

The correct circle constant is 2pi, for which the author proposes using the symbol τ (tau), for a turn around the circle.

Apple Talk / Ohayocon?!?
« on: January 29, 2011, 03:25:26 pm »
So this weekend finds me at Ohayocon.  Any of you spags there/here?  I ask because I noticed that during one of the sound checks for some musical group or other that someone had set the projectors to display the image on the main page.

Wireless at the con in shitty, so I prly won't be able to see any replies until tonight, but if someone wants to try to find me, I'll be losing the Hisoutensoku tournament in the game room from 2:00 on, wearing a shirt with a variation on this image.

Otherwise, the only redeeming features of the convention seem to be the Girl Genius Radio show, and a hilarious panel on the history of Sailor Moon hentai.

Apple Talk / Applying to grad schools, help requested
« on: December 10, 2010, 05:26:10 am »
This is my (very rough) draft of my Statement of Purpose for graduate admissions.  I'm applying to a ton of schools for Ph.D. mathematics programs, starting with MIT, UC Berkeley, and Princeton and working my way down.  Any advice or pointers would be greatly appreciated.  (Also, stressing over admissions has been sucking up huge amounts of my time.  I have actual content planned after I'm done with this.)  Important context is that my GPA is only like 3.1~3.2, despite me being really good

   Communication can only occur between peers.  Earlier drafts of this letter tried to write from supplicant/patron paradigm, but they all felt ... fake.  Writing from the position of a lowly applicant begging a favor from an faceless committee does things to a person.  I found myself trying to spin every accomplishment and downplay every fault, engaging in exactly the kind of banal dishonesty that keeps people from engaging each other at anything approaching a meaningful level.  Conversation becomes a guarded dance between public faces.  The people who hide behind those faces eventually shrivel into a mask themselves, having starved themselves of real human contact in favor of playing with the well-groomed homunculi people create to do their socializing for them.
   So: the dialectic of this letter will not be servant/master, supplicant/patron, or even student/professor - but rather of one god to another.  I assume the stance of a flesh-and-blood deity, and invite you to do the same (if only because the view is better from up here.)  I am the undisputed ruler of my surroundings (at least out to my skin, often further), the captain of my destiny, the watcher behind my eyes, the warden of the bar of my teeth.  I wield a thumb in not one but two hands, smile when I want to and laugh when I please.  I wield tools and tell stories, and on occasion I have been sighted traveling at one hundred kilometers per hour, sustained.
 And I want to enroll in Berkeley's mathematics Ph.D. program.
   Why?  I'm not a polymath yet.  My strategy is to learn the math first (because a sufficiently clever person can always find the math underlying anything) and specific subject matter second.  The test I've set for myself is to pick up any paper in any subject and see if I tell whether the conclusions are justified or not.  I've found that I need more differential equations and complex analysis to make sense of advanced engineering papers, more statistics to handle correlational studies, more algebraic topology and linear algebra to follow modern physics, and more graph, group, and number theory for theoretical computer science.  Once I've mastered all of those fields of mathematics, I can pick up the subject-specific material on my own at my leisure, but for the intense mathematics program I have planned out for myself I'd greatly benefit from being around knowledgeable professors and enthusiastic students.
   Not that I only want to learn math as a tool for understanding other sciences.  I find math to be the most interesting subject, because math allows you to study things that don't exist.  Math is only bounded by imagination; any internally consistent structure is a valid field of study.  That so many of these structures turn out to be useful in real world applications (games are equivalent to matrices? Who'd have predicted that?) is proof that we live in a really awesome world.  While I'm studying all the aforementioned fields, I want to push the boundaries of mathematics itself.  Modern mathematics has a fixation on the reals and the natural numbers that I think will seem as silly to future mathematicians as the Greek's faith in the rationals does to us.  We talk about metric spaces, but restrict ourselves to real-valued metrics - any poset that is dense around a least element should serve as the range of a distance function.  We define arbitrary rings and groups around things like rotations and knots, things that needn't have any connection to counting numbers at all, and then talk about elements having order 2.  Where did the natural number come from?  I want to see a generalized notion of coefficients and exponents that allows us to simplify expressions like a + a + a without drawing on concepts like "three" if three isn't an element of the group we're adding up elements of.  (This might not be possible, but I'd like to try.)  I'm also interested in the theory of computing.  The computers described by Turing are sufficient to compute any computable number, of which there are countably many - which real numbers aren't computable numbers?  Every model of computing that I know of either turns out to be equivalent to Turing machines or a subset of them - might there be some "weird" models of computing waiting to be discovered?  I suspect that there are, and that investigating them will yield great advances in multiple fields.  Centrifuges perform sorts in constant time, why not computers?  What description of algorithm will allow us to capture this?  I think the answer might have something to do with an unbounded number of processors.
   That's why I want to go to graduate school in mathematics.  What remains is to explain why I should be chosen for one of the very limited number of slots in your doctorate program.  Of those who are applying to your graduate school in mathematics this year, there might be a person or three who is more qualified than I am - but certainly not twenty.  What sets me apart from the crowd of mathematical geniuses who are also applying isn't my towering intellect, creative spark, or exceptional abilities in math - I understand that these are par for the course at Berkeley - but my commitment to radical enthusiasm and curiosity.  I believe that enthusiasm is a choice, and that curiosity is a way of life.  That is what makes me a superior student, and why I think I'd be a valuable addition to your collection of grad students: I will do what it takes to learn, in every subject, because studying interesting material is never a chore, and all material is interesting with the right frame of mind.  That's why my selection of undergraduate courses is so eclectic.  How many other applicants have studied linguistics, quantum physics, organic chemistry, Modern-period philosophy, propaganda, cognitive psychology, and the Ramayana?  My guess is none.
   I have high confidence that I'll make an excellent graduate student, and that whichever school ultimately admits me won't regret it.  It would be to both our advantages if that school was UC Berkeley.  Still, if I've failed to convince you, please don't hesitate to contact me to ask any questions or clarify any points.  I'm always up for an interview.

Looking forward to working with you,

eta: disregard the letter, it was suck and fail.  I completely rewrote it.

Apple Talk / ATTN: Kansai
« on: December 02, 2010, 07:53:13 pm »
I dare you to do something other than posting quasi-snarky pseudo-funny comments.

Historically, newbs have done well with introductory posts in the recipes section.


Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / Be a dance commander
« on: October 30, 2010, 07:08:36 pm »
This is an attempt to re-visit some of the ideas in my "Be an Enabler" piece with an eye towards practical implications.

Way back when (< 3 years ago), the phrase "dance commander" meant something in PD jargon.  Or maybe it didn't - I only saw it a handful of times.  (I think it may have had something to do with Gay Wango Tango... ?)  Anyway, I remember seeing a OLMB or PosterGASM idea seed something along the lines of "you should find your dance commander, and do what he says."  I didn't think much of it at the time; I interpreted it as making light of authority figures or being surrealist or something.

Then I met some real-life dance commanders.

At dances, there are usually a number of people who don't really feel like dancing.  Maybe they're tired, or are terrible at dancing.  But most commonly people don't want to dance because not enough people are dancing.  People don't want to be awkwardly dancing by themselves while everyone else watches.  So if your party falls below the critical number of dancers, everyone stops dancing, even though people mostly came to the party in the first place for dancing - so you have this incredibly awkward situation where everyone wants to dance but isn't going to because nobody else is.  This is where the dance commanders come in.  Dance commanders are the people who understand that dancing doesn't happen by itself, that someone needs to put in effort to get people moving.  You'll recognize the dance commanders because they'll get up and dance even when nobody else is, risking looking foolish in order to jump-start the party.  They dance even harder when a poor dancing song comes on and people start looking to see if now is the time to go get a drink.  They move from group to group, bringing isolated dancing circles together into larger groups.  In short, they are the ones who deliberately and systematically change the atmosphere from "lets all stand around looking at our feet" to "WOOHOOIDONTKNOWTHISSONGBUTLETSDANCEANYWAY"

People's actions are heavily influenced by the psychic/cultural/situational landscape.  We usually don't want to upset the status quo, even when the status quo isn't benefitting everyone.  If the status quo is "not dancing," nobody wants to be the first to dance.  If the status quo is "dance party," people don't want to be the ones left out.  Dance commanders are the people who have realized that the psychic landscape is entirely composed of people's actions, and that they can remodel the landscape by acting against the situation or by spinning the situation differently.  Godwin saw an obnoxious tendency in usegroups that benefitted no one, put on his dance commander hat / white lab coat, and crafted Godwin's Law to change the way conversation is conducted.  Ditto for the Frown Power campaign, where people would pointedly frown at those they heard making bigoted or intolerant speech - a deliberate attempt to change the cultural landscape from one where racism was permissible to one where racism was embarassing.  On the other end of the spectrum, we have people working to contort the landscape into things like "The West is at war with Islam" so well that people who consider themselves Western and people who consider themselves Muslim are taking up actual, IRL weapons to kill each other.

Your mission as a official certified Dancin' Pope is to recognize when someone is trying to sell you and the people around you a bullshit scenario, and to sell a better scenario right back.  If rules lawyering is eating into your RP time, change the game you're playing from "Rules lawyering one-upsmanship" to "Relaxing social activity."  Change "Pointless drama and whinging" to "Post something interesting."  Change "Bosses are better than you" to "This is a true team enterprise."  "We are at war with The Other" to "We are the most socially, intellectually, and creatively advanced entity in known space, let's do something more fun than kill each other."

When people are playing a game where nobody wins, change the rules.  Redefine victory.  Apply all that "meme" stuff we talk about.

Apple Talk / Obama on Daily Show
« on: October 28, 2010, 04:10:01 am »
I didn't see a thread about this yet, sorry for double thread if that's the case.

But come to IRC and discuss it!

On now and nothing special has happened yet.

ETA: never mind, it was really short and not much happened.

Apple Talk / Rally for Sanity Meetup
« on: October 23, 2010, 03:17:21 pm »
It now seems pretty likely that I'll be attending the Rally to Restore Sanity on 10/30, although I don't have any concrete logistical plans yet.

I know some other people here are planning on attending.

So: who's going, and meetup?

(sorry for short uninformative post, I have to go make a boardgame in time for a party.) 

Apple Talk / I am confused by everyone's usernames.
« on: October 22, 2010, 03:02:42 am »
I've realized that I have no idea what name several of you spags are going under ATM.  Or, rather, who is behind several usernames.

Roll call plz?

Or Kill Me / What's that word?
« on: October 03, 2010, 09:41:48 pm »
One of my roommates had the good fortune to turn 21 during our colleges Parent's Weekend, so several of my roommates' parents came to get drunk and party.  During the warm-up (this started at 9 am) a couple of the parents started talking about something called Why-Wham or YWAM or something about using skateboarders and polynesian dancers to attract children to the cult of evangelicalism.  One of the moms made a comment regarding "snot nosed brats ... behaving inappropriately" by talking among themselves, laughing, and making jokes at the expense of people who were trying to use skateboarding to make a fake religion appeal to children.

I called the woman on it, and told her that that "offended" me, because I was one of those kids once, and I'm tired of people thinking they can decree what is "appropriate" or "inappropriate" and denigrate those people who naturally fall on the other side of their artificial dividing line.  I'm especially tired of people who think that children are meant to be controlled by adults.  She apologized, but continued to make the case that this was somehow benefiting anyone.

But "offended" isn't the right word.  If something says something insulting and true, I have no cause to become offended at them for speaking the truth.  If someone says something insulting and false, I have no cause to be offended because the charge is ridiculous.

I was more irritated by the fact that this woman and people like her exist.  Thinking about it later, I realized that the only kind of apology I would have accepted would be either her completely changing her worldview or her death.

So what's the word for this?  Am I offended at the existence of evangelicals?  Is this feeling "hatred" for them?  Am I an evangelicalphobe?

Because thinking about this more, I realized that I a) want evangelicals to cease existing and b) that I don't even consider evangelicals to be real people, but rather puppet-gears of the Conversion Machine, little soulless shells of small evils.  I'm a little worried because this sounds an awful lot like bigotry, and I don't want to be a bigot.

Or Kill Me / GA blogs an essay: I Fucking Hate Homer
« on: September 23, 2010, 06:08:45 am »
I was going to put this in Bring and Brag, but I figured that since I wouldn't be posting any actual essay but rather ranting about how much Homer annoys me, I'll put it here instead.  I'm writing this because I think it will somehow help me write this stupid essay, possibly via public shame or making me organize my thoughts.

The Setting: GA, despite being reasonably competent at writing in general, sucks at writing graded essays for humanities teachers.  He is also taking a required 300-level English course concerning various epics (The Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Ramayana) which normally he would enjoy (mythology and latin spags, unite!) except that this semester he trying to get into MIT or Stanford or equivalent to study mathematics, and his GPA is already at 3.1 and can't take much more punishment.  And as mentioned he sucks at writing English essays.

The Antagonist: A measly four-page essay about The Odyssey, due in ~9 hours, which would normally be no big deal except that I am coming up seriously blank on the prompt, which is: either a) discuss Homer's methods and tricks of creating character re: a character introduced in the last 16 books (i.e., the last 2/3 of the story) or b) identify the narrative strategies used by Homer to keep the audience interested and also make the audience pause and consider the implications of what is happening.

The Twist: Homer doesn't do any of these things.  Or rather, he doesn't do any of these things well.  To give him credit, part of it is certainly that The Odyssey is an oral work, and the stuff that doesn't work well in book form might work better being orated to the audience.  But mostly, I think, his problem is that good writing hadn't been invented yet.  "Show, don't tell" is a relatively recent adage.  (I think - I haven't studied the history of adventure story writing except by reading adventure stories written in different time periods.)

I think we pretty much all agree that a free press is a Good Thing to have in your country.  And although this hasn't come up as often, I think most people here support some kind of truth in advertising.

So what happens when the two collide?

Three hypotheticals:

I.  The Green Bean is a newspaper that advertises itself as being printed on 100% recycled paper.  It isn't.

II.  Well Informed Daily is a newspaper that advertises itself as being factually accurate and only using thoroughly checked sources... but in every issue there is at least one story that is completely, utterly, demonstrably wrong.  They invent things - terrorist bombings, local politicians, scientific advances, even restaurants to be reviewed - that simply never happened.

III.  Canid News is a newspaper that bills itself as offering fair, objective, and unbiased reporting, but by anyone else's standards they're the most rabidly partisan pseudo-news organization out there.  Problematically for this hypothetical, objectivity in reporting is itself subjective - so for IIIa suppose further that memos have been leaked that detail executives instructing editors to stick to the agenda and not go off message, or discussing how best to spin various events in favor of their mysterious agenda, etc, etc.

Which (if any) of these newspapers shouldn't be (legally) allowed to keep their advertising slogan?


WASHINGTON — In what law enforcement officials portrayed as an extraordinary takedown of a Russian espionage network, the Justice Department on Monday announced charges against 11 people accused of living for years in the United States as part of a deep-cover program run by S.V.R. — the successor agency to the Soviet-era K.G.B.

The complaints followed a multi-year investigation that culminated with the arrest on Sunday of 10 people in Yonkers, Boston, and northern Virginia. The documents detailed what authorities called the “Illegals Program,” an S.V.R. effort to plant Russian spies in the United States to gather information and recruit people able to infiltrate government policy-making circles.

The “Illegals Program” extended to other countries around the world, the charging documents said.

The 11 defendants were charged with conspiring to act as agents of a foreign government without registering with the Justice Department, and 9 of them were also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. The complaints do not include charges of stealing any secrets.

Using fraudulent documents, the complaints said, the spies would “assume identities as citizens or legal residents of the countries to which they are deployed, including the United States.” It continued, “Illegals will sometimes pursue degrees at target-country universities, obtain employment, and join relevant professional associations” to deepen their false identities.

GASM Command / RotGASM
« on: June 06, 2010, 05:31:13 pm »
(brief disclaimer - this post and those that follow are written for the Principia Discordia language community, which employs some bizarre and idiosyncratic usages of words, phrases, and exaggerations that you might find offensive or disturbing.  We probably don't mean them that way.

This is the thread to discuss organization against the Judge Rotenberg Center and the systemic human rights abuses it inflicts on the children and adolescents entrusted to it.  This GASM is unusual in that it is not (primarily) an effort to spread humor and enlightenment, be weird, or troll people who annoy us.  Our objective is the cessation of the atrocities committed by the Judge Rotenberg Center: we are taking on a real, brick-and-mortar institution.

For reference, see my posts here (in particular the last couple) and the NY State Education Department report on the JRC available below.

Measures of Success:
Complete Victory will be declared if the JRC closes its doors and proper treatment and therapy is provided to its (now former) students.
Success is the closure of the Rotenberg Center.
Partial Success is bringing hope to the children being abused at the JRC or sharply reducing the number of children sent there.
Minor Success is causing substantive changes in its operating practices or getting a full-fledged media and/or blogosphere blitz.

The Five Prongs of Engagement:

I: Information
If the first rule of warfare is "Know your enemy" then the first rule of information warfare is "Get everyone else to know your enemy."  If you google "judge rotenberg center" the major hits are their own website and their Wikipedia entry - which currently looks like it was written by their marketing department.  In other words, the intelligent person with a healthy skepticim (exactly the kind of person we need) might see a damaging blog post or two, and then check up on the claims via Wikipedia and the company's own statements, both of which are great works of PR, especially if the researcher is not particularly knowledgeable about modern psychiatry.  If he looks no further, there's a good chance he'll come to the conclusion that the claims are overblown and that this is just another "cause" promoted by conspiracy-minded self-declared "advocates."  We can fix that.

First, we can fix the Wikipedia page.  This might be an uphill battle in that most of the criticisms of the JRC are found on blogs and forums, while its apologetics are found on its very official-looking web page, complete with cherry-picked citations for, say, why bipolar kids do just fine without medication.  News sites aren't that much help either; they mostly seem to try to be "balanced," which apparently means showing the pros and cons of dehumanizing child abuse, and they deal with the complex psychiatric issues with the understanding of a communications major being fed pseudoscience by a very good PR team.  The Wiki page needs to be updated with objective, sourced, and airtight documentation of the various problems of the JRC.  And no, no matter how accurate it is, the other editors are (justifiably) not going to treat something published by or Aspies for Freedom as either NPOV or reliable.  Again, I recommend the NYSED report - it's damning enough by itself, and from a US state government agency, a credible and authoritative source.

Second, we can promote accurate, informative, and persuasive links on Google.  In particular, we should promote sites that give coherent and accurate descriptions of the JRC in an easily digestible format.  An understated 26-page report, TL;DR forum posts, and apparently biased blogs aren't going to cut it. apparently does have the clout to affect Google rankings by itself (incidentally, we're still the #1 and #2 hits for "worst forum on the internet" without quotes) but we need to find sites worth promoting first.  Remember, Google shows the URL, title, and the first couple lines of the pages it links to; the links we promote should be persuasive even without the user having to click on them, and have a credible looking (if not actually credible) URL.

Also about Google - you know how it suggests search terms as you're typing in your query?  Right now, if have "judge rotenberg" or "judge rotenberg center" in the search box it suggests "judge rotenberg center X," where X is "mother jones," "wikipedia," "jobs," "reviews," "employment," "2009," "shock," and "deaths."  If we could get "child abuse," "human rights violations," "torture," and various articles and reports that condemn the JRC up there as well, that would be pretty cool.  Anybody know how Google determines search suggestions?  Can we just make a bot that spams searches for "judge rotenberg center human rights violations"?  (If you were wondering, Mother Jones is a news site that ran a series of articles on the JRC a while back - they might have more resources we could use as well.)

Third, we need a list of factoids about the JRC, with sources cited and a little information about how the person can help (see next point.).  This is intended to be the TL;DR summary of what the JRC is and why it needs to be closed down post-haste.  The intended audience is an ordinary person who probably has never heard of the JRC before, and the reaction we're looking for is the reader scraping their jaw off the floor afterwards.  It would also be a good thing to link people to - if someone says "Your extraordinary claims about torture require extraordinary evidence" we need to have a simple response rather than linking them to half a dozen sites that each tell half the story.  We'll also probably want slightly different versions for different target audiences, or at least for people who already have a decent background knowledge of special education.  I may or may not have something along these lines done sometime tomorrow.

Lastly, either I or someone else should rewrite this post the results of this discussion into a kind of "action plan" that can distributed / linked to to other people outside PD who want to know what they can do to help.  Probably should wait until we get a clearer idea of what we're doing, though.

Final note: this isn't a project that calls for disinformation.  The Truth is on our side, and frankly it is horrible enough.

TL;DR summary of what you can do: Find lots of good, credible sources, which we/you can then use to improve the Wikipedia article, influence Google search rankings, and create our own summaries for use elsewhere.

II: Rhetoric
In addition to fact sheets, we need specialized motivational material.  The most obvious are simply persuasive articles and essays that can then be spread around in the usual fashion.  Images are also good.  If anyone wants to illustrate some of the horror stories that come out of that place, that would be wonderful.  Again, I have a couple of ideas for comics and articles and stuff, but this is definitely an area where you can help - there are a surprisingly large number of good writers and artists on this site.

There is also the need for direct argument and refutation.  The JRC has a good media arm, and they publish "for the media" articles and responses to some news articles and blog entries, which are full of misleading statements, bad science, and even outright falsehoods.  (For instance, they keep repeating that they have a highly trained staff; NY state says that the majority have only a high school education and a generic two-week orientation that is the same for the people monitoring the cameras as it is for the people working directly with the children.  JRC claims that their high-level aversives are used only to prevent even more destructive behaviour; their own records disagree.)  We need refutations of their refutations, also written for the media.

Random thought about rhetoric - we probably want avoid the abbreviation JRC and instead abbreviate it as just Rotenberg Center in publications.  Because i) to many initialisms is a signal that a group has developed its own internal jargon, which indicates something of a exclusive and cultish atmosphere (count how many TLAs are in internal CoS documents) and ii) as much as I hate to play on stereotypes, the name "Rotenberg" just sounds vaguely menacing in a human-rights-violating, unethical-human-experimentation kind of way.  It also reminds me of "Röntgen" (a measure of ionizing radiation, the kind that kills you) and "rottweiler" (a scary fucking dog, guards prisons, and the second most likely to kill a child after the pit bull.)  The "Judge" prefix makes it sound more legitimate, so not using that when avoidable could be a good idea.

III: Networking
Possibly the most important prong: whatever it is that we're doing, the more people we have doing it the more effective it is.  Networking is connecting to sympathetic people and getting them involved in their own way, and taking people who are already involved and connecting them to each other.  The obvious and easiest method is simply to promote materials from sections I and II via social networking sites.  (Is that thing from TwitterGASM suitable for this / still working?)  While it's true that the typical Facebook user who joins a group for some social cause promptly forgets about it and does nothing, if we get enough exposure there's the chance that a reporter or editorialist or blogger or just plain profligate sneezer notices and spreads the message somewhere else.  And if we come up with something simple and painless for the general public to do, even Facebook might accomplish something.  Maybe something like a group for "everybody tweet about the JRC on MM/DD" or "digg/reddit these articles" or "politely ask to run this story," I dunno.  I also know next to nothing about other social networking sights, like Twitter and the various social bookmarking sites, so if anybody knows how we can use those productively, post about it.

But more importantly, we can directly talk to people who can help.  I think that the main groups who are most likely to be helpful are:
-Teachers, because most of them really do care about education, and they all know how hard it is.  Sentences like "the majority of the teaching staff had only a high school education" and "the most common interaction between teachers and students is the hourly rotation of electrodes" are probably enough to convince most real teachers that what goes on at the JRC cannot be called "education."  Oh yeah, and most of them like kids.
-Psychologists and psychiatrists, because they know real psychology and the associated therapies.  That the JRC starts with the assumption that every kid can be taken off their meds, pulled out of every other complementary treatment, and given exclusively fringe behaviorist therapy with no mechanism for rewarding good behaviors, without any attention to side effects, and regardless of the underlying condition, is probably enough right there to get psychologists/psychiatrists foaming at the mouth, if only out of professional pride.
-Various mental health / disability / special ed advocates, because they already care about and advocate for these kinds of children - they just need to be informed that this place exists.  That, and they have networks in place already and are presumably good at activism and raising a big stink when necessary.
-Human rights activists, for much the same reasons.  Then again, they have a lot of other stuff on their plates so they might be too busy for this.  On the other other hand, they like to use examples of human rights abuses going on in your presumably civilized country to remind people that "human rights" is an issue that doesn't just apply to smudgy people on another continent.
-Weird people, the kind who read about the children who get sent there and think, "That could have been me."  People who don't need to read all the way to "Then they came for me / and by that time no one was left to speak up." because they know they'd be gone before the first three stanzas are up.*  The people who have had their own experiences with special education services and IEPs and child psychologists and know first hand how important it is that these things are done right and what the stakes are when they are done wrong, and that the children on the receiving end of these treatments are real human beings, not facimiles thereof.

The first two groups, teachers and mental health professionals, might be the most important because they have understanding of the issues in question, professional organizations, clout, and standards.  A letter signed by 500 mental health facilities, 1,000 educational institutions, or 10,000 teachers, counselors, and licensed psychologists is going to carry a lot more weight than one signed by 10,000 no-name internet activists, especially if we get recognized professional organizations on the letterhead.

I intend to write personal letters to a number of teachers and counselors I know from my old high school and current college (run by the Jesuits and Marianists, respectively, both of which have a strong commitment to social justice and links to a ton of human-rights type groups.  If we can get the Jesuits involved, that would be a major coup.)  This is another area where you can definitely make a difference, especially those of you who are current students or recent graduates - I have a feeling that talking to teachers, professors, and school counselors could be a very fruitful exercise.  They are exactly our target audience, and you already have a personal relationship with them.

Additionally, there are already a lot of organizations and bloggers who have already tried to raise awareness on the JRC or related issues - a March 2010 Boston Globe article mentions "31 disability advocacy groups" charging JRC with inhuman practices.  They need to be connected together into a unified coalition.  (I don't mean actually uniting the groups, just getting them working together collaboratively.)  This is an issue that has already gained some traction among mental health advocates, especially the ASD self-advocacy movement.  Off the top of my head, Mental Disability Rights International has written a very strongly worded letter, the Autism Self-Advocacy Network has written a letter to various official bodies, and Aspies For Freedom has already tried to do some kind of protest against the JRC ... but I don't know how much real follow through they've done.  They need to be told that a major push is about to be made, and that this time something concrete is actually going to be accomplished.

*I am not, of course, referring to communists, union members, or Jews, or at least not exclusively.  I'm thinking of the various modern versions of the poem with all kinds of additional vulnerable peoples thrown in.

TL;DR summary of what you can do: locate all the groups and blogs who have already done something or expressed concern so we can get them all working as a unified front on this issue.

IV: Direct Kindness
We can also write letters directly to the students enrolled at the JRC.  This needs to be done very carefully, of course.  The objective of this part is to try to communicate that there is always hope, that yes, even strangers care about them, and that they have friends on the outside - that is, to show basic human kindness to the people who need it most.  The idea is to try to mitigate the enforced solitude these students live in with some genuine human contact.  If we do this right it has the potential to be very, very positive, and it has the added benefit of helping children even if ultimately the school doesn't change any of its policies.

I like this idea because it isn't aggressive or confrontational; it's genuinely constructive.  This is the sort of thing we could get lots of ordinary compassionate people to do, and it isn't reliant on any kind of complicated media effort or iffy legal challenge, and requires no skills in organization, media manipulation, activism, etc.  I'm picturing a number of community service groups at various schools writing a letter or two each per member - that adds up quickly.

A word of caution: this is very easy to get wrong.  At a minimum someone else should review each letter before it's sent, preferrably someone with experience working with disabled children.  In particular, it would be a terrible idea to send any form of a call to action or any kind of religious message (they do not need to know about Ganesh, remover of obstacles, no matter how much you might think it would help.)  These children are not going to organize anything approaching an effective protest inside, and trying to incite them to do so can only make things worse.  That's not the point; the point is to show basic human decency to people who are being treated like something less.  We also want to avoid implying that we're only writing to them because they're students at the JRC and we think it's evil - we're writing because they are human beings who could use a smile.  They'd still be having a tough time of it even if they were at a quality institution.  Come to think of it, there are already groups who do similar things for hospitalized children, there's probably someone who already does this for children at mental health facilities.  If there is already a group that does this, we should use the networking and organization for this to help them expand to cover the JRC.

Also remember that the people we would be writing to range from profoundly disabled to average intelligence with severe emotional problems.  (I don't know what percentage are even literate.)  This is not the normal audience for the letters you usually write.  It would probably be a good idea to get some feedback from a professional in psychology as to what might actually be beneficial to the student we're writing too.  (Like, would jokes help?  What kind of joke would a person who mutilates himself to relieve stress find funny?)

As for names and addresses, I think we could probably get those from the parents themselves.  (It would be a good idea to get their parents' permission before strangers start mailing these kids en masse anyway.)  If we do approach the parents for this purpose, though, we would want to do it through a group that isn't confrontational or attacking the school their kids go to.  I don't think that names/addresses of the minors in this sort of institution would be public knowledge (or the names of the students over 18, for that matter.)

TL;DR summary: we (and a lot of other people) can write uplifting and encouraging letters to the people trapped at the JRC, and even extend the basic idea past this particular GASM as a long term effort to be nice to the Children of Eris everywhere.

Completely random thought: it would be awesome if we could acquire one of the GEDs that the school uses.  Probably not possible to get one from them, but I bet they have patents filed somewhere, and if we get the specs I'm sure we can find a Mad Scientist willing to put together a replica.  That would be a killer demo to show people - here, try this one.  BRZZAP.  There, that's what they call a "hard pinch" at the JRC.  The JRC doesn't let journalists demo the things anymore, probably for a reason.  The Boston Globe articles say they have a model that delivers 41 milliamps at 66 volts for 2 seconds (pretty sure that's AC).  How bad is that?

Techmology and Scientism / Lab Notebooks
« on: May 23, 2010, 03:21:56 am »
I know we have some scientist-types here, so I thought I'd ask:
How important is it that a lab notebook containing raw data be kept with the notebooks containing procedures and documentation?  For example, if you had a study about a novel anti-osteoporosis drug in rats, and you had one notebook detailing all the procedures used, another journal/notebook containing the day-to-day observations of the scientists involved, another notebook containing necropsy reports of the animals, and another notebook containing tons of x-rays of the lab rats, would any of those be valuable without the others?  I'm thinking that just having one or two notebooks from the set would be pretty useless.

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