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what is the unit of harm in meat-eating?

Is there anyone else here who eats animals, but still considers it morally suboptimal? Like, you're willing to do it for health or hedonic reasons, but if all other things were perfectly equal, it would be better not to? I feel that way, and I've always imagined that other former vegetarians do as well.

If so, what do you think of the idea that it's more moral to eat large animals than small ones? If you believe that every life is of equal value, then it seems clear that it's better to get a given amount of food by killing one cow than by killing 3 pigs or 200 chickens. Or, if different animal lives are incommensurable, then at least it's better to raise large breeds of cow than smaller ones.*

I've heard this idea used as a joke, but I can't see any real holes in it.

Obviously there are other considerations -- in some cases, smaller animals are a better match for the environment and resources, and among fish almost the most sustainable species seem to be the small ones. But let's set those aside for now.

Also see Zach Wiener's take on the subject.



Just got back from a 2.5 mile run! I am slowly clawing my way back from the absolute bottom. There may be something to this trendy biomechanically efficient running everyone is going on about, since running often causes me less joint pain than walking does.

Mostly I just wanted to see cactrot again.


E posted on facebook about her horizon-expanding experiences with squid preparation. In case you ever have to prepare squid, I'd like to direct you to this set of helpful infographics. It is the ready.gov of the squid preparation world.


I wrote this entry almost a month ago, but didn't have anywhere to put it. Which helps explain why I'm back on LJ. Hi, LJ!


My 35th birthday was earlier this month, but I still want to stop and celebrate having been 34. 2012 in general was a great year for my mental health and outlook on life, and the first year in a while that I wasn’t relieved to see the back of. August 2012 was the beginning of a true personal renaissance. True enough that I’m willing to call it a “renaissance” no matter how embarrassed it makes me feel.

I got serious about using psychology and technology to motivate and organize myself, and my life became fuller and yet less stressful. I got serious about quantified selfing and started gathering tons of data. I got five times as serious about getting shit done at work, and had my most productive year in a very long time. I also began tracking my time and keeping a journal, which means that I can look back and actually have some idea where all the time went.

In November, I decided that I wanted to tackle a bunch of long-delayed errands and obligations and vague aspirations. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas I accomplished 22 challenges, some of which had been hanging over my head for years. I’m now on round 3 of challenges and have moved on to things that I _want_ to do, as opposed to ones I’m just relieved to have out of the way.

In March I started an ambitious, ongoing dietary change experiment. Eating paleo hasn’t drastically improved my health — in fact, it’s pretty weird how small the change has been. But it’s taught me a lot about my ability to confront anxieties and behave more flexibly. I have lots more experiments I want to run, and I’m absolutely delighted to be in a place where I’m actively experimenting instead of always wondering, but never getting up the will to actually find out.

In April I decided to try to tackle my joint problems again. I went through another round of physical therapy, following my therapist’s instructions with unprecedented fidelity. Her regimen of core strengthening did absolutely nothing for my hips and knees (though it did make my abs look better). In June I had a few sessions with a deep tissue massage practitioner, and since then I’ve had almost no pain during daily activities, and I can run almost 3 miles! I don’t think the improvement is permanent, but this is the most progress I’ve made ever since these damn problems started. It’s not inconceivable that I’ll be able to fulfill my vow to run Bay to Breakers next year.

In June I went to the positive psychology conference, and it’s the first time in several years I’ve gone to a conference that was inspiring, instead of just making me feel like a loser.

So here I am! I’ve missed blogging all these years, but I think for a while my daily life was pretty depressing. Now it’s something I feel like talking about.


a slime appears!

Welcome! This is my personal blog. Many of my posts are visible to the public, and everyone is welcome to read and comment. If I know you in real life, be aware that you are also welcome not to read -- please don't feel as if I've cornered you in the hallway, and you have to listen to my latest political opinion / medical problem / pie recipe until you can come up with an excuse to escape. I will never be offended if someone chooses to read selectively, or not at all.

I talk about many of the same topics I work on, and I recognize that colleagues or co-workers may also find this blog. Nothing here should be taken as an official position statement or an authoritative scholarly assertion. And like everyone else, my opinion does not necessarily reflect that of my employers.


airport nudity

So, apparently there's a movement to declare November 24th a body scanner protest day, on which all airport travelers are asked to refuse to go through the new full-body scanners and instead insist on a full pat-down and genital frisking, in a private room, with a witness present.

This seems misguided to me. I mean, I'm imagining that I'm an average traveler, and I get stuck behind a bunch of people deliberately gumming up the security lines. I'm late for my flight, have to sleep in the airport, get charged $50 for rebooking, and miss Thanksgiving dinner with my family. This will succeed at provoking outrage, but I don't think it will be at the scanners.

I also appear to be in a very small minority of people who think that TSA procedures are an ill-planned, manipulative sham, but who aren't particularly bothered by the idea of being seen naked. Hell, it makes more sense that being asked to take off my shoes. On the other hand, I'm not opposed to the idea of being seen naked. Being seen naked by a device that can store my image indefinitely and transmit it anywhere, and that's making money for people who spent months outright lying to the public about its ability to do those things, makes me pretty sick.

(millimeter-wave and backscatter x-ray scanners also put me in the same weird position as GM crops and social network data mining -- I end up being opposed to their use even though I think they're incredibly cool.)

In any case, getting through airport security involves doing a lot of deep breathing, and reminding myself that the screeners aren't the ones who wrote the rules; they're just ordinary folks doing a job.

It's not easy being orange

As a recovered hypercarotenemic, I am saddened by the left's mockery of John Boehner's orange skin. You can't judge a book by its cover, y'all. Okay, you can judge its fondness for carrots and/or dubious self-tanning techniques, but that's it.

Also, that's a stupid expression. You can obviously judge a book by its cover. That's where the title and the name of the author are.

Maybe the expression should be "you can't judge a book by its cover art." God knows there are enough science fiction fans who can attest to that.


PS - I let my paid LJ account lapse. Is anyone getting obnoxious page-blocking ads when they read this post? I'll try to complete the changeover to my new, paid Dreamwidth account soon (but have it auto-syndicate my posts back here).


Reading about LED lightbulbs. I'm so excited!


I'm years late on this, I know, but I just finished playing Braid. I even got all 8 stars.

(I'm not worried about spoiling the secret that the stars exist for people who haven't played, because the stars are so unbelievably obscure that anyone who could have discovered one without being told they exist is brilliant enough that they were probably able to pull some Paul Atreides precognitive shit and deduce in advance they shouldn't read this post.)

I was terribly pleased with myself for solving the puzzle of the last (first?) star without any hints. I will spoiler-cut the rest, though.Collapse )

nuances of emoticons

I used to be staunchly opposed to emoticons and other improprieties common to online writing (like, I used to use single line breaks between paragraphs and indent them by typing     . I had a special button on my mouse for it. But even when I was away from home, I could bang it out in about 2 seconds). I've changed my view on that in the last few years, which could be attributed to my studying emotions in grad school, or just to mellowing over the years.

I've always been enchanted by the way that our brains can turn pretty much any three dots into a representation of a face. (or a simple curve, a dot, and an arc into a happy slime!) But despite all the processing we do internally, tiny features of the input stimulus can have large effects. Just consider the subtle emotional differences between ;-] and ;-) and ;-> .

But I'm a little dissatisfied with :P. Sticking your tongue out can mean ether "ugh" or "nyah nyah!" and I feel like :P is subtly in the "ugh" camp (as are :P :b q: d:). What if I want to express playful taunting? Fortunately, I found a way!

Don't ask me why I even knew about LATIN SMALL LETTER THORN [U+00FE]. It's literally the sole, isolated piece of knowledge I had about runic script. But I really think putting the tongue in the middle of the mouth makes a big difference. More in some fonts than others.

Could anyone who knows more about the topic let me know: 1) Do the people who assign greater symbolic and magical meaning to futhark runes have any historical basis, or are they just making stuff up? and 2) Am I going to, like, curse anybody by using this emoticon? That seems a little too impolite.

PS - I know I hardly ever post on LJ anymore, and read at best sporadically. Heck, I don't even always answer my email. I feel awful about the dear friends I've been ignoring and the things I've been failing to say. I guess posting about the ridiculous stuff that takes up space in my head is better than nothing. And speaking of posting, I'll be moving to Dreamwidth soon, but I'll keep my blog mirrored here. I also paid real money for my DW account, so I'll probably have some codes to give away if anyone wants them.
Here is a picture of a jellyfish riding on the back of a crab.

And here is a picture of a crab riding on the back of a jellyfish.

ps - the answer is that there's probably at least one thing that does.

Dr. Kraemer (another one)

John has gotten his PhD! Rejoice!

I am so happy for him.

Now we are off to get sushi. (that's right, I'm in Boston. which you'd know if I ever updated here.)

Birthday 32

I was feeling a little bit glum about my birthday, but then euziere pointed out that 32 is 2^5!

Currently euz, glenn, and I are hanging about the apartment and talking about statistics and type 2 diabetes. Glenn explained some very valuable things about chlamydia and pelvic inflammatory disease (um, not valuable to anyone here.... just valuable in general... well, maybe valuable to glenn... intellectually speaking... since he works at the department of health. Okay.).

Later we're going to try to play that variant on Scrabble I've always wanted to try, where words are scored based on a combination of letter frequency and word frequency.

Here, have a picture of a product that has diverged substantially from its original concept.


symbols, with bonus obscurity


This is a picture of the difference between a picture and a symbol.


This picture, in contrast, doesn't have any hidden meaning. But isn't "gorgonzola gems" a totally dreamy name? I mean, it makes me feel like I'm in a wonderful dream.


This is a picture of euziere. She makes me very happy.

statistical facepalm

I've been working with linear regression, both as a tool for understanding psychology and as a primary professional skill, for more than eight years now. At last, my conceptual understanding of statistics has advanced to the point where I've stopped understanding it. In a few years, I'll probably have to take some time off to think hard about what a "sample" is.

I only mean this to be mildly self-denigrating. I think it's similar to the way that anybody here could tell me what a "number" is without thinking -- unless they've studied mathematics in real depth, in which case they're going to get a glazed look in their eyes for a few minutes, and then launch into a two-hour lecture. Or maybe it's more like the way you drop acid and achieve a crystal-clear understanding of all reality, and then you look down and you're like, whoa, I've got this hand, and it's just sort of there. It's like there's a region of space with this propagating wave of handness.

Why do I make these posts? I guess because I spend a lot of time wandering around inside my head, and so for people who care about me it's kind of like telling you what's going on in my life. And in that spirit...

Special bonus entry: Boolean facepalm
Read more...Collapse )

One anachronism meets another, I guess?

So... which is more dated and / or ridiculous?

a) This apartment ad, trumpeting its highly advanced "CAT5 Audio/Video/Data"?


b) The fact that I still can't read that without thinking, "How are you gentlemen!!"

modern milestones

I think there's a new official life milestone consisting of the first time you see an ex's wedding photos on facebook.

We could go a little further and make it an Eriksonian pass/fail life stage*, based on whether it's a happy or a sad experience. I'm in the former group, so that's good.

* It's funny to look back on an era when touchy-feely humanism didn't go hand-in-hand with reflexive rejection of rigid dichotomies.


For the folks from work -- remember the mysterious comment from today's talk about "micro-pigs?"

Here are micro-pigs: http://bit.ly/micropigpig

(Wikipedia says that they are just very small miniature pigs.)


With a mere four hours of fiddling, I've gotten my copy of SPSS 16 to run on my new Mac! I now have an additional incentive to finish relearning how to do everything using R, so I can get SPSS 16 off my new Mac as quickly as possible.

I warned you about stories I told you dog

Is anyone else reading Homestuck? If so, I'd love it if you'd post here and see if we can figure out what the devil is going on. euziere and I made some diagrams and figured out ... click for spoilers ...Collapse ) but I'm still really confused.

euziere didn't like Homestuck that much when she first tried to read it, but she could tell how desperate I was to have someone to discuss it with, so she went back and read the whole thing anyway! How sweet is that?

PS - I realized that some people might interpret the LJ icon that I use for posts about absorption in fiction (see above) as a quill pen. It's actually meant to be a Vurt feather. I know those aren't widely recognizable, but it's a symbol that I like to use personally anyway. (this is also why I always had a silver feather over my desk in my old office at UM).

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