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Posts concerning psychology

Courtney Stoker, Patriarchy, and Geek Misogyny

22:26 23 Aug 2010

This is one of the better discussions on prejudice in geek culture that I’ve come across: “Courtney Stoker on Feminist Geek”. I like where Stoker is coming from—perhaps unsurprisingly, for like me she has an academic background in English literature and is also a science fiction fan. But she is far more community-oriented than I am; despite the fact that my geekery goes back decades and despite my involvement in something like Fantasy Bedtime Hour, my engagement with science fiction is primarily either private, or shared through meatspace discussion, or expressed on this blog. None of those things are involvement with large-scale communities such as those Stoker is discussing.

One of the reasons this particular interview with Stoker is important is that she sensibly addresses the influence of anti-geek prejudice on male geeks.
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Nurture, not Nature

22:54 22 Aug 2010

I’m posting a link to this article primarily because the article agrees with me: “Male and female ability differences down to socialisation, not genetics”—I’ve believed for years that behavioral differences between genders (or between other sets of people, really) are due to cultural and social factors, not differences that are somehow “innate”. That article is a good summary of scientific findings that back up my belief.
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Controlling Discourse in the Internet Era

13:37 06 Aug 2010

This article on manipulation of Digg stories doesn’t surprise me, but it’s definitely sad, and demonstrates the fragility of online forums (and, perhaps, democratic systems in general). I’m also interested by the dedication of those involved, and their determination to suppress opposing viewpoints—while, naturally, maintaining a sense of persecution.

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Three Routines

10:22 02 Aug 2010

I don’t tend to think of myself as a particularly disciplined or organized person, a view often at odds with how others perceive me, but I will admit to liking to organize and order things in specific ways. This may be related to my left-handedness, and/or to my attraction to precision (which attraction falls short of achieving precision, although I hope that in language I occasionally come close).
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Lifehacker Meditation Guide

23:16 20 Jul 2010

I haven’t tried it out, but this Lifehacker guide to meditation looks good. I’m interested in trying it, but have some resistance because I’ve never gotten anywhere with meditation in the past.

Entirely by coincidence (or at least that’s how it appears to me) the Deutsche Nepal track “The Hierophants of Light”, which I’ve never heard before, starting playing as I wrote this post (I bought the album it’s on, Deflagration of Hell, last night)—and it begins with this looped many times: “You shall hear nothing, you shall see nothing, you shall think nothing, you shall be nothing”.

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Unit Testing as Game

23:23 15 Jul 2010

One of the great things about unit testing is that you can get into a game-like mode where you make incremental but measurable progress—“flow”, basically—but what if it’s just not similar enough to a game for you?

Install Unit Testing Achievements, a Python package that works with nose, unittest, and Django. Somewhat crazy, definitely hilarious. Some of the achievements themselves are excellent, such as My God, It’s Full of Dots: The suite has at least 2,001 passing tests.

Sadly not yet working is another one I like, Heisenbug: Make a passing suite fail without changing anything.

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Tal Ben-Shahar on Practical Happiness

22:30 08 Jul 2010

Even though Oakland apparently isn’t too bad so far after the Mehserle verdict, thinking about police–protester interactions is depressing, and watching this take on recent events in Toronto didn’t help. So what better than five ways to become happier?

You should follow the link and watch the video, but if you really don’t have time to spare to become happier, a quick summary:

  • Accept emotional pain. It’s indicates that we’re still alive and not psychopathic.
  • Focused time with loved ones. We need it, and we need it without distraction.
  • Regular exercise. We’re not supposed to be sedentary. Even three times a week for thirty–forty minutes helps tremendously.
  • Be grateful. He suggests noting five things you’re grateful for every night.
  • Simplify. Stop trying to jam more and more into less time.

I have experience with some of these, and they work. This includes exercise; the difference it can make is extremely significant. (It doesn’t have to be CrossFit—but do some kind of strenuous exercise three times a week for forty minutes!). I haven’t gotten too far with simplification. The “gratitude journal”, despite its New Age veneer, has some strong evidence behind it. I might try that out.

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How to get Help from a Crowd

18:56 18 Jun 2010

If you ever find yourself in serious need of help from people around you in a public place, follow these instructions:

  • Make explicit that you need help.
  • Make a request for help from a specific person, and call them out by pointing at them and addressing them by some characteristic that makes them stand out.
  • Make very clear what they should do.

Say something like “Help! You with the green pants, I need help, call [the police/an ambulance/etc.]”.
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The Platform of the Maine Republican Party

18:00 11 Jun 2010

I came across this via slacktivist, and it makes for interesting reading. Much of it is laughable, including some dubious capitalization and article use. Perhaps surprisingly, I agree with significant portions of it—although this might be due to my and their meaning different things when using the same words…

For example, the final line (and the one that slacktivist discusses) is “Repeal and prohibit any participation in efforts to create a one world government.” I’m all for it. But when I look at the world, the most likely candidate for “OWG” is the nation with military bases in at least 63 countries, which I somehow doubt is what the Maine Republicans are talking about.
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Best in Life/The Greatest Joy?

23:38 08 Jun 2010

These are arguably the most famous lines from Conan the Barbarian:

Khitan General: What is best in life?
Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!

Random browsing recently led me to learn that this was inspired by the words of Genghis Khan.
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Money, Motivation, and Social Organization

22:37 18 May 2010

This animated excerpt from a lecture by Dan Pink on the nature of motivation is absolutely worth watching:

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10 Motivation Boosters from Lifehacker

23:52 09 May 2010. Updated: 01:25 10 May 2010

The ideas aren’t new to me, but all of them together in one list is a good resource: Top 10 Motivation Boosters and Procrastination Killers.

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“I’m a Mac—and I only date other Macs”

23:53 07 May 2010

A dating site for Apple fans only. I don’t think we need much more evidence that buying Apple products is status signalling much of the time. Maybe not always, but clearly it’s a big part of it. And I say this as someone who likes, and has, Apple laptops.

The thought of basing dating pools on brand allegiance makes me queasy. If it doesn’t make you queasy, I suspect that either you’re already way more cynical than I am, or you’re unaware of the degree to which you’ve been manipulated by advertising.

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How to Solve It and Project Euler

20:35 16 Apr 2010
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The Office Model of the Office

13:29 15 Apr 2010

I haven’t watched much of either the British or American versions of the show, but am nevertheless going to recommend three posts by Venkatesh Rao which use the American version to illuminate interesting aspects of office life:

Long, but definitely worth it.

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A Misanthropic Essay on Stupidity

15:01 08 Apr 2010

While I don’t really believe in stupidity as an intrinsic characteristic, and while I’m skeptical of analyses of the world that place blame for ills on non-systemic causes, I still found Carlo M. Cipolla’s “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity” amusing and worth reading.

In summary, the five laws are:

  • Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  • The probability that a certain person will be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  • A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
  • Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
  • A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
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Public Projects, Finishing Things, and bitbucket

11:46 06 Apr 2010

I’ve been writing Python fairly steadily for the past couple of years, and a significant amount of that has been for my own projects; Python is what I tend to use to scratch workflow-related itches. That’s great, but many of these projects reach a point short of “finished” when I stop working on them.
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Height and Negotiation

12:41 16 Mar 2010

Taller people seem to have a number of social advantages, from increased earnings to (for men) increased desirability. It’s also an advantage in negotiations.

Various explanations for this have been posited, for example the fairly plausible idea that height correlates greater physical development earlier in life and hence to greater self-esteem.

A study cited in The Body has a Mind of its Own, however, suggests that we deal with height in a way that is both more ingrained and more shallow than that.
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Trying d-cubed for Task Management

11:58 09 Mar 2010

I’ve been falling behind somewhat in keeping track of my tasks. That’s not to say I haven’t been productive, it’s just that most of my productivity has been focused in things I’ve been working on obsessively, like preparation for the roleplaying campaign I started running last week, Vim customization, and Python workflow coding.

It would be good to track other things better than how I’m doing it right now, but somehow returning to TiddlyWiki for my task management wasn’t appealing. I used it for quite a while, but a bare install of it doesn’t seem to quite work for task management, even though it’s still really good for keeping notes about things in general. I’m going to try d-cubed, a TiddlyWiki-based tool, instead.
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“Easy Equals True”

17:40 05 Feb 2010

Or so our brains are trained to believe, apparently:

[S]tudies have shown that when presenting people with a factual statement, manipulations that make the statement easier to mentally process—even totally nonsubstantive changes like writing it in a cleaner font or making it rhyme or simply repeating it—can alter people’s judgment of the truth of the statement, along with their evaluation of the intelligence of the statement’s author and their confidence in their own judgments and abilities.

If it’s easier to read and easier to remember, we think it’s more likely to be true.
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Confidence, Status, and Women Undermining Women

23:20 01 Feb 2010. Updated: 23:31 03 Nov 2010

Recently Clay Shirky wrote “A Rant About Women”, a piece essentially claiming that women needed to act more confidently, even or especially in situations where confidence would be unwarranted, in order to be more successful. There’s more to it than that, but that was what I took as the core message. I think there are some valid points in there, but I also think that Shirky radically underestimates the ways in which women are frequently punished for acting confident, and that he appears to assume that a system which promotes self-aggrandizers is something that we all (not just women) should accept as the natural way of things.

I might write up a longer response to “A Rant About Women” at some point, but right now I want to bring some attention to a piece that’s probably more important than my response.
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“Leadership by Wimps”

18:48 22 Jan 2010

I was loving this article from The Economist until the final paragraph, and specifically the final line.

The article reports on a series of psychological experiments which strongly support the idea that power corrupts. The interesting wrinkle is that some people are corrupted less—and these are apparently the people who don’t feel deserving of their powerful position.
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Rape and “Compulsive Heterosexuality”

21:26 18 Jan 2010. Updated: 14:14 25 Jan 2010

This post at Yes Means Yes! is an excellent overview of how the profoundly unhealthy culture of American high schools socializes boys to have negative and domineering attitudes towards women. The post is a review of Dude, You’re a Fag, an academic study of student ethnography and behavior at a Northern California high school. While the degree to which the behavior in the school is typical can be debated, it certainly seems to me that it’s certainly not a total aberration. I think a key paragraph is this one:

[Male sexual aggression in this context] has little to do with sexual orientation or desire and everything to do with a gender performance that positions the boys in relation to other boys.

I don’t think this is all that controversial, but I do think it’s important.
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