Friday 29 August 2008

Blogging May Be Light

I've had to take my partner in to the Emergency Department twice in the last week. She's scheduled for surgery on Tuesday.

We can't afford health insurance, but we have enough savings 'for a rainy day' to manage. It's not like the USA - medical care for "public patients" is relatively inexpensive.

There have been better weeks.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Whatever Happened To.... Radar O'Reilly?

He became a professor of History and Political Science, and he's now a Delegate at the Democrat National Conference. Somehow that seems... appropriate.

From MPR Minnesota:

He is, in fact, Don Shaffer (and his wife is Pat). And he is the person on whom the character of Radar O'Reilly was based in the book that later became the movie and TV series M*A*S*H. Richard Hornberger (who took the name Richard Hooker) thinly disguised the characters in the book as soldiers who served with him in an Army field hospital in Pyongyang, Korea. Shaffer was company clerk and a chaplain assistant. When the unit had to "bug out" to escape the advancing Chinese, Shaffer had to drive two USO members. One was Joe DiMaggio.

He told me the real "Hot Lips" Hoolihan was "much more beautiful than Ms. Swit," and that the soldier on whom Klinger was based was gay (and was named Springer), but it was the Army that was trying to throw him out , while he wanted to stay in the service.

He served in both Korea and Vietnam and -- after concluding his service in intelligence work -- became a professor of history and political science.
So now you know.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

A Reading List concerning Transition

So you want to be a T-girl : an unvarnished look at the difficulties of transition - and after. I should add that I have some severe differences with many of the opinions expressed therein, and some of the statements of fact too.

Gender Identity Disorder . Written in 1999 by Sarah Becker MD. A good 1-page explanation.

Gender identity change in a transsexual: an exorcism.A 1977 paper (without follow up as to long term success) showing the desperate lengths some psychiatrists went to when dealing with Transsexuality. Yes, Exorcism is a word used literally. A Later paper used the more innocuous term "Spirit Release Therapy". Same thing though, Bell, Book, Candle, Ju Ju Masks, Pyramids... But at least not Electro-Convulsive Therapy, Aversion Therapy using nauseating drugs and pain-inducing devices, or destroying parts of the brain, all fashionable therapies at the time. I'm immensely glad I kept my mouth shut, and didn't fall into the hands of these people.

Rethinking Sexism : How Trans Women Challenge Feminism The world's largest annual women-only event excludes trans women, sparking a debate among feminists about sexism and privilege.

Can a marriage survive transition? A spouse's perspective. Some can. Usually not.

ETHICAL CONCERNS RELATED TO TREATING GENDER NONCONFORMITY IN CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENCE: LESSONS FROM THE FAMILY COURT OF AUSTRALIA The best single article on medicine, the law, and transsexuality I have yet found. Some people "get it". A must-read for medics, lawyers, and those with TS children.

And finally... an extact from correspondence with Dr Veronics Drantz, Geneticist
...I fit the standard gender binary model very well in terms of mind, it's just the body that's odd. The Gender Binary Model is not complete rubbish - it covers well over 70% of all people. It's like saying all road vehicles have 4 wheels, a good first approximation. It's only when you insist that motorbikes, semi-trailers, large trucks, bulldozers etc have to have 4 wheels too, or don't exist (or can't be allowed to exist), that you run into trouble. Reality gets in the way. And Unicycles cause complete cranial implosion.

OK, that's enough about me for the time being. I blogged my transition, and that is as good a record of what happened, as it happened, as you'll find.

What do I think of the Diamond-Money controversy? I have very few differences from Milton Diamond's views. He's right in the main, though I think he underestimates the importance of emotional response when it comes to gender identity formation.

I'll try to explain: rather than Gender Identity being a "Tabula Rasa" at birth (the Money theory), certain propensities, tendencies, embedded in the Lymbic system already exist long before birth. They dictate what is "uphill" and "downhill", the direction further development will TEND to go, all other things being equal, and the "steepness" is variable. The causation of these tendencies and their strength, is probably primarily hormonal, but gene sequences (rather than the very crude metric of chromosomes) may play a large part too. The directions may be towards what is stereotypically female, stereotypically male, or neither, as "male" and "female" only describe attributes most often found in standard 46xy bodies, and standard 46xx bodies, the "70%" with 4 wheels.

The child with such emotional pre-programming then discovers their gender identity through the "what am I most like" process described by Diamond, with appearance and social role playing some part, but not a big one.

A terribly crude approximation is that 1/3 will be boys, 1/3 will be girls, (their "steepness" is high), and 1/3 could function in either role, depending on circumstances. I feel so awful making such horribly imprecise statements, it's not as if "boy" and "girl" are single variables, they're vectors, not scalars, and not absolutes. BBngbbGb we'd call "Boy", gGGgbgBn we'd call "Girl", just assuming there's a continuum of B..b..n..g..G and only 8 quantities. In fact, you could say that even that terribly simplistic model would indicate 58 different genders! Worse, it's not discrete, rather than each variable having only 5 different values, they are continuous, 0.000.. 1.000. And not 8, but possibly thousands of coefficients.

Worse still, something as nebulous as "sexual orientation" might be, say, a product of the 2nd and 4th coefficients. Bg and Gg respectively. Corresponding to appropriate numbers on the Kinsey scale, itself a crude model.

To cut a long story short - I'm in the Diamond camp, very firmly. I see nothing magical about the 18 month mark.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

From Laminated Mouse to Telepathic Cat

From Wired: Pentagon Begins Fake Cat Brain Project :
The Pentagon's crash program to create an artificial brain is just about up and running. And, if it all goes as planned, we could see an electronic chip that mimics the "function, size, and power consumption" of a cat's cortex some time in the next decade.
"The follow-on phases of the project will create a technology that functions like the brain of a cat, which comprises 108 neurons and 1012 synapses," Dr. Narayan Srinivasa, SyNAPSE Program Manager and Senior Scientist, said. "The human brain has roughly 1011 neurons and 1015 synapses."

The gray area between circuitry and gray matter has become one of the hotter topics in military research. The Army is funding a study into "synthetic telepathy" that would translate the brain's electrical activity into computer code.
The JASONs, the Pentagon's premiere scientific advisory board, has warned of the dangers of enemies implanted with brain-computer interfaces. And the Defense Intelligence Agency just released a report, saying the military needs to spend more on neuroscience - up to and including "mak[ing] the enemy obey our commands."
A summary of another of Cordwainer Smith's works: The Game of Rat and Dragon.
Mankind has achieved the ability to travel to the stars, through interstellar space, but there are hazards, namely monsters that people call "dragons" who kill many of the passengers and crew on these ships, drive people insane. To battle these noncorporeal monsters, human psychics have proven very useful, but engineers have found that these human psychics work better against the monsters when they have partners—psychic cats.
See previous post on another Cordwainer Smith related neurological issue : Laminated Mouse Brains

Monday 25 August 2008

Kiel Paroli Maldece en Esperanto

How To Talk Dirty in Esparanto.
Mi ricevis anoniman eseon per posxto titolita Kiel Paroli Maldece en Esperanto
Trans: I received an anonymous essay in the mail entitled How to Talk Dirty In Esperanto.

NSFW. Really. And Atentu al la elefantaj fekeregoj!

Curtsy to Darwin Central

Sunday 24 August 2008

What my life is worth

5 years. Unlike a human's. If you're unlucky enough to get caught while hunting, and any old story will do, no matter how much the facts contradict it. It's always open season, and no bag limit.

From Philadelphia Gay News:
Oates, 20, of the Olney section, faces a minimum of five years in prison when he is sentenced next month, but could be released within the next 30 months because of credit for time served.

Police arrested Oates after the February 2006 incident and he has been incarcerated since then.

Minehart didn’t explain his ruling, but it appears he accepted the defense’s position that Oates acted in the heat of passion after he picked up King for sex in February 2006, then shot her twice after realizing she was a biological male.

Assistant D.A. MK Feeney argued for a first-degree murder conviction or, as an alternative, a third-degree-murder conviction. She said the evidence indicated that Oates targeted King because of her transgender status.

But defense attorney Brian McMonagle stressed the youth and naiveté of his client when he went out looking for sex about 5 a.m. Feb. 1, 2006, at Broad and Spring Garden streets.

He said Oates wasn’t aware that transgender sex workers frequented the area. He didn’t know King was a biological male until she became sexually aggressive inside Oates’ car and indicated that she had a penis. Then, Oates went into a frenzy and shot her twice in the heat of passion, McMonagle said.

Feeney scoffed at that defense.

“Mr. Oates isn’t so naïve that he can’t find a gun,” she said. “He has an illegal gun in his car, he’s out at five o’clock in the morning on a school night and he’s going to a strip club when he’s underage. He’s sophisticated enough to be doing those things. Yet the defense portrayed him as an innocent, naïve little boy.”

Oates told police he didn’t realize King’s biological status until King grabbed Oates’ hand and placed it on King’s penis, inside the car.

Oates did not testify during the trial but his early statements to police were read for the record.

However, Sgt. Daniel Dutch, who’s worked undercover as a “john” in the area, testified that he’s never heard of — nor experienced — such behavior by a transgender sex worker.

To the contrary, transgender sex workers normally go out of their way to avoid having the johns touch their penises, Dutch said.

And medic William Murphy, who administered emergency care to King after she was shot, testified that King’s penis was “tucked” between her legs, held in place by her panties, when he got to her.,
Bit of a contradiction there...
The shooting happened in the Nicetown section, near the intersection of Bott and Kerbaugh streets. King was shot twice, from the side and rear, according to the medical examiner’s report.

Her body was found about 120 feet from Oates’ car, where she collapsed in a pool of blood, evidently trying to run for safety, said Feeney.

McMonagle said the shooting happened during “pandemonium” in Oates’ car, after he felt King’s penis, tussled with her for Oates’ pistol, then King moved toward him.

But Feeney refuted that scenario.

“At no time was she ever coming toward him when he shot her, because she was shot from the side and rear,” Feeney said. “That tells you right there that the defendant is lying. If you’re coming toward someone, your front would get shot.”
But mere facts won't stop a transphobic judge from issuing an amazing decision. And the odds are pretty good of getting one.
She said Oates’ actions after the shooting also contradict a heat-of-passion defense.

“He immediately got rid of the weapon,” Feeney continued. “If you can’t think straight, you’re not going to do that. Then he calls 911, does this act on the phone about a robbery and unknown gunman and lies to the responding officer and detectives. To me, that shows a pretty good presence of mind, don’t you think?”

She said Oates tried to flee the scene but was stymied because his car wouldn’t start. “But for the fact that his car wouldn’t start and he was stuck at the scene, we’d probably never even know who killed Alexis King,” Feeney said.
So let's see - King exposed her penis, while it was tucked. And she advanced on him, so he shot her in the back. Then in total panic he calmly gave his prepared story.

Any old story will work, won't it? As long as it's that scary TRANS PANIC!!!!!

Thursday 21 August 2008

This Means Something

From the University of Rochester :
Most scientists have believed that the instant a quantum object was measured it would "collapse" from being in all the locations it could be, to just one location like a classical object. Jordan proposed that it would be possible to weakly measure the particle continuously, partially collapsing the quantum state, and then "unmeasure" it, causing the particle to revert back to its original quantum form, before it collapsed.
In the latest issue of Nature News, Postdoctoral Fellow Nadav Katz explains how his team put the idea to the test and found that, indeed, he is able to take a "weak" measurement of a quantum particle, which triggered a partial collapse. Katz then "undid the damage we'd done," altering certain properties of the particle and performing the same weak measurement again. The particle was returned to its original quantum state just as if no measurement had ever been taken.

Because theorists had believed since 1926 that a measurement of a quantum particle inevitably forced a collapse, it was said that in a way, measurements created reality as we understand it. Katz, however, says being able to reverse the collapse "tells us that we really can't assume that measurements create reality because it is possible to erase the effects of a measurement and start again."
Now if only I could decypher what Mother Nature is telling us about the nature of Reality.

Is it consistent with the "Many Worlds" interpretation of Quantum Mechanics? Having a do-over before a particular branch of the Multiverse is chosen as the perceived one? I don't know, this is getting beyond my pay grade.

More on Quantum Mechanics and the nature of Reality at a previous post, The Real, the Complex, and the Imaginary.

This means something. But I have no idea what.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

The Slavoj Test

Over at Tim Blair's, there's a list of 32 personal questions.

Now since transsexuals are constantly being accused of being narcissistic, I thought I'd indulge in narcissism for a change. So rather than making a post of any great worth and moment, I decided to try answering the questions myself. This is pure self-indulgence, as I intend to come back to this post in a few years and use it to try to figure out how I was thinking, back there in distant 2008.

Oh yes, some readers might find it interesting too. Not so much for what my answers might be, though they may give some insight into the author's personality, but by using it as a tool to examine themselves. I invite any other bloggers to take the same test.

1. When were you happiest?
The day my son was born.

2. What is your greatest fear?
That I might screw up in my work and let someone die. In my line of work, safety-critical engineering, this is not an unreasonable fear.

3. What is your earliest memory?
The taste of the california redwood blocks my uncle gave me, and being bathed in the kitchen sink. I would have been about 2.

4. Which living person do you most admire, and why?
Too many to name, many of whom you've never heard of. People who circumstances not of their own making brought to the ultimate in degradation, and who came back, and now help others so they're spared the same thing.

5. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
So many, it's difficult to choose. Arrogance. Being blind to my own faults.

6. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Arrogance. Being blind to their own faults.

7. What was your most embarrassing moment?
Apart from answering this question? I was once called in as a "hired gun" capital-E Expert to help Centrelink with their computer system. The computer I was given had a floppy disk drive installed vertically, and could I insert the disk I needed? Nope. It was obviously broken, as happens sometimes. Then someone suggested I flip the disk upside-down... ooops.

8. Aside from a property, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought?
Genital Reconstruction Surgery. $22,000 including all costs.

9. What is your most treasured possession?
A german lady's pocket watch, rudely inscribed "LCpl David Brain, Thiepval 23rd September 1916". My grandfather was a sniper in WW I, and had just had a 3-day duel in no-man's land with an enemy counterpart. He managed to win, and as orders dictated, went in to make sure the enemy was dead. The enemy sniper had had his shoulder shattered, and was lying, dying in a crater. No-one knew he was there. My grandfather summoned a german stretcher party - had the enemy only been lightly wounded, he would have bayonetted him instead - and in gratitude, the german gave my grandfather the watch he'd been given by his fiance, "for good luck". It worked, it has several dents from splinters, and as it was in my grandfather's breast pocket, may have saved his life as well.

10. What makes you depressed?
Injustice to others I can do nothing about.

11. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

My ribcage. 45" on a 5'6" frame. Ewwww.

12. What is your most unappealing habit?
Making foetid puns.

13. What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?
Xena, warrior princess. If I can lose some weight.

14. What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Blogging when I should be doing work on my PhD.

15. What do you owe your parents?
Everything. Bill payable to one Andrew Edward Brain, my son.

16. To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
When I was being bullied rather severely by several gangs, one of the biggest who had hurt me worst was walking near my house. I came up behind and attacked, then when he was on the ground, deliberately broke his collarbone. Just so he wouldn't hurt me any more. I was only 8. But he was only 10, just a small boy. He didn't deserve that. I'm truly sorry, and I wish I could apologise to him.

17. What does love feel like?
Fizzy. Tingly. Like being in Free Fall. Snuggly. Comfy. Warm.

18. What or who is the love of your life?
The woman I married and the mother of my child. I just wish we were of opposite sexes, or at least, lesbian.

19. What is your favourite smell?
My son when he snuggles up next to me in the morning.

20. Have you ever said ‘I love you’ and not meant it?

21. Which living person do you most despise, and why?
Despise... TV evangelists and others who con well-meaning people out of their money, and often perpetrate bigotry and hatred. And spammers.

22. What is the worst job you’ve done?
Cassandra at a Deathmarch Software project, doomed to fail.

23. What has been your biggest disappointment?
Not being able to have another child.

24. If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I'd go back and get my father to have his heart condition checked out before it was too late. And I'd get myself a second X chromosome in lieu of the Y one. Except then my son wouldn't exist. I might have other children, but not him. So best not.

25. If you could go back in time, where would you go?

If I could be an observer, and not change anything due to a temporal Butterfly effect... to the Library of Alexandria before it's destruction. With a digital camera, to copy the contents.

26. How do you relax?
A nice hot bath.

27. How often do you have sex?
As often as I can fit it in. (see answer #12)

28. What is the closest you’ve come to death?
Holding the hand of my father as he died, and promising to look after my sister and my mother. In terms of personal extinction, having meningo-encephalitis at age 21.

29. What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Having a billion dollars, so I could give it away to people who really need it. That would make me feel unbearably smug. So smug I'd probably vanish in a black hole of smugness. Especially since I'd do it anonymously, so no-one knew but me.

30. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Fathering a child, despite odds so remote, they're incalculable. My endocrine system barely qualifies as human.

31. What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Be kind.

32. Tell us a secret.
Not possible, for then it wouldn't be a secret, would it? I have a clearance, I don't discuss such things, no, not even in jest. Those who say don't know, and those who know don't say.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

It gets a bit wearing sometimes.

This year, an 18 year old beautician was found dead in her flat. She'd been dead about 3 days.

She'd been garrotted with a scarf, so tightly wrapped around her neck that the ambulance crew couldn't put a finger beneath it. Unconsciousness would have happened within seconds as the carotid artery was compressed, and blood prevented from getting to the brain.

Her body was found with a throw carefully placed over it. Her flat had been ransacked, and her mobile phone, electrical equipment, even her public transport card taken.

Now there was a CCTV camera outside, and a man was spotted emerging from her flat at about the time of death, carrying a bag containing bulky items, like the DVD player and other electrical equipment. He was seen using the victim's public transport card. DNA evidence from the scarf pointed to him, but was inconclusive.

He was identified, arrested, and changed his story several times under questioning. He had a long record of petty theft of electrical equipment and the like.

Of course he was found not guilty of all charges.

You see, the victim was a transsexual. "Everyone knows" that transsexuals are "particularly suited to prostitution" as Dr Bailey, a noted psychologist, has said. so even though there was no suggestion that she was a sex worker, no evidence, well, she probably was. They all are. And everyone knows that transsexuals habitually engage in "other paraphilias" too, bondage and the like, Dr Bailey says that too.

The barrister for the defence managed to convince the jury that she'd either managed to strangle herself in some kinky sex game (carefully arranging the throw over herself in the few seconds before losing consciousness), or had been coincidentally asphyxiated by a person or persons unknown, probably a "client", only minutes after the suspect had left the scene with at least some of the victim's property. Someone who managed to evade the CCTV and left no DNA evidence.

That the suspect came from quite possibly the most transphobic western nation on earth, where transsexuals and even gays are routinely assaulted and even murdered, may not have been mentioned. I'm sure it didn't help that the victim wasn't, you know, IC1. Wasn't white.

The victim's name was Kellie Telesford.

More over at TransGriot.

This gets old, very quickly.

In the state of Colorado, Angie Zapata was bludgeoned to death recently with a fire extinguisher. Angie was also killed by someone with a history of petty theft, who ransacked her flat and put a cover over the body. And who, when the apparently dead victim started to revive, hit "it" again.

It tends to be the young and the beautiful who are the victims, but not always. Some 4 or 5 months ago, also in the state of Colorado, a woman my age was assaulted and left for dead, with severe head injuries.

She's recovering quickly from the brain damage, and was present at Angie's funeral. She's starting to recover her memories of the attack now,and they're not good ones. I have some experience of recovering from brain damage, so I've been giving her what help I can. Here's what she remembers so far from a trip to the shops that went terribly wrong.
There are still many hours of memory unaccounted for. I still don't remember the very beginning except before it all took place and we do know the attack started a good bit of time before where the memory picks up due to the blood in and around where my car was found a good distance or it was driven there after the fact.

What I am regaining is a whole section in the middle that is very violent at a location that is tiered down a hill with concrete with three foot drops. I visualize two individuals one with blond hair the other with dark hair but can't see the facial features. The one with blond hair pushes me off the top tier landing on my back and head then it rebounds up and hits again, I lay there for a moment then roll over on my side to try to get up again and hear talking and laughter but I can't make out what is being said. Next I'm being kicked in the face and chest when it fades out until I made it back to a stand position where I'm pushed off again down to the next tier where similar actions take place except the one with dark hair straddles me, grabs my hair and repeatedly slams my head on the concrete. Then I must be out for awhile because I come to hearing them but nothing is happening until I try to move and groan then laughter starts back up and I start being kicked over and over until it blacks out. Even though I don't remember anything after that yet I was found wondering a mile and a half from where this took place.
She's getting Flashbacks, and needs some support. Only three weeks separates her age from mine. It could have been me.

Often,I wish I could leave all this behind. I've transitioned, after all, and could go back to well-merited obscurity, just another soccer mom, an academic doing a PhD and bringing up her seven year old son. Just life.

But while a single person is drowning, how can one leave the pool? Had I taken the usual route to womanhood, had I had the XX chromosomes and such, I like to think that had I been made aware of the situation, I couldn't rest until I'd done something to help. That I have a view from the inside, as it were, doesn't matter. I just wish I could do more.

At least, now this blog is being archived by the National Library, there will be a permanent record of how it was, and how we felt, back in the Dark Ages of the Naughties. How being victimised, we refused to become victims.

How we moved that mountain, one teaspoon at a time.

Monday 18 August 2008

Hello Pharyngulites

For those visitors who have been flocking here from Pharyngula on the ScienceBlogs site complex, welcome!

Some of my more recent posts on Intersex, Transsexuality and Biology are:
BiGender and the Brain, Sex and the Brain, Square Peg, Round Hole, Mommy, Don't Take me There, and Transsexual Causation, the American Psychiatric Association, and Interpol. But you'll find a lot more, going through the archives. Plus "Blue Suede Shoes" in the original Klingon, thoughts on Euler's equation, and a miscellany of subjects. Quite a bit on TS and IS human rights too, or rather, the lack thereof. My experience has certainly been educational.

My own peculiar and ongoing story is described at Year Three and related posts.

Sunday 17 August 2008

Today's Battles

You know, sometimes I think I do more interfering in other countries' internal affairs than the Central Intelligence agency.

So here's some more, at the Detroit News.
"Hamtramck is following in the footsteps of a number of cities who recognize this is an important issue," said Kevin McAlpine, the Triangle Foundation's deputy director. "The majority of people in Hamtramck believe everyone should be treated with fairness and respect."

That's not so, said Brian Rooney of the Thomas More Law Center.
So, is it or isn't it? Do the people of Hamtranck believe everyone should be treated fairly or not?

At least Mr Rooney is being honest - that it's because certain behaviours, and in the case of transsexuals, even having certain congenital medical conditions, contravene his particular sect's beliefs (though not those of other Christian groups) that he wants to be able to continue denying some people their basic human rights.

Somehow Jews and Muslims manage to get by without ordnances prohibiting eating pork and bacon. We have many laws that go against the beliefs of sundry religions, yet somehow we manage to get by, condemning sin as we see it, yet not actively persecuting pork-eaters or divorcees.

Freedom of Religion is freedom of belief: not freedom to oppress others who may not share the same views.
I should add that Mr Rooney's honesty really is appreciated. It's a point of view I disagree with, but it's come to and presented without malice nor mendacity. Unfortunately, many think - and with some justification - that because "that dog won't hunt", they have to resort to distortion, concealment of facts, and even blatant lies. All in a good cause, of course. My respect for Thomas More Law Centre and its staff is increased because they're not falling into this terrible temptation.

Moving right along... at the Gainesville Sun once more. A commenter asked an honest and reasonable question about legislation preventing discrimination against gays and transgendered people.
Name another city that has this policy and if it was successful
2007 State of Colorado
State of Iowa
Lake Worth, FL
Milwaukee, WI
Palm Beach County, FL
State of Oregon
Saugatuck, MI
State of Vermont
West Palm Beach, FL
2006 Bloomington, IN
Cincinnati, OH
Easton, PA
Ferndale, MI
Hillsboro, OR
Johnson County, IA
King County, WA
Lansdowne, PA
Lansing, MI
State of New Jersey
Swarthmore, PA
State of Washington
West Chester, PA
2005 Gulfport, FL
State of Illinois
Indianapolis, IN
Lincoln City, OR
State of Maine
Northampton, MA
Washington, DC
2004 Albany, NY
Austin, TX
Beaverton, OR
Bend, OR
Burien, WA
Oakland, CA
Miami Beach, FL
Tompkins County, NY
2003 State of California
State of New Mexico
Carbondale, IL
Covington, KY
El Paso, TX
Ithaca, NY
Key West, FL
Lake Oswego, OR
Monroe Co., FL
Oakland, CA
Peoria, IL
San Diego, CA
Scranton, PA
Springfield, IL
University City, MO
2002 Allentown, PA
Baltimore, MD
Boston, MA
Buffalo, NY
Chicago, IL
Cook County, IL
Dallas, TX
Decatur, IL
East Lansing, MI
Erie County, PA
New Hope, PA
New York City, NY
Philadelphia, PA
Salem, OR
Tacoma, WA
2001 Denver, CO
Huntington Woods, MI
Multnomah Co., OR
State of Rhode Island
Rochester, NY
Suffolk County, NY
2000 Atlanta, GA
Boulder, CO
DeKalb, IL
Madison, WI
Portland, OR
1999 Ann Arbor, MI
Jefferson County, KY
Lexington-Fayette Co., KY
Louisville, KY
Tucson, AZ
1998 Benton County, OR
Santa Cruz County, CA
New Orleans, LA
Toledo, OH
West Hollywood, CA
York, PA
1997 Cambridge, MA
Evanston, IL
Olympia, WA
Pittsburgh, PA
Ypsilanti, MI
1996 Iowa City, IA
1994 Grand Rapids, MI
San Francisco, CA
1993 State of Minnesota
1992 Santa Cruz, CA
1990 St. Paul, MN
1986 Seattle, WA
1983 Harrisburg, PA
1979 Los Angeles, CA.
Urbana, IL
1977 Champaign, IL
1975 Minneapolis, MN

Number of cases of sexual predators using the law as a defence: 0

Number of cases of men exposing themselves in women's rooms and being convicted despite the law : At least 1 (Portland OR)
Source is the Transgender Law Centre.

Opponents of such legislation, be it in Hamtramck Michigan, Montgomery County Maryland, or Gainesville Florida, do tend to gloss over this issue. Just a bit. Some have even claimed that although no other jurisdiction has had any problems, it's "too soon to tell", and one, Peter LaBarbara, stated that he "expected a problem at any time".

I really think 33 years is a long enough trial period in a large city, and 15 for an entire state.

Saturday 16 August 2008

Today's Battle

At This Blog.
am I being paranoid to think that "trans fundamentalist" would stoop so low to disrupt a 30+ year strong woman only event?
Well, it's only my opinion... but yes, I think you are.
That was my response to this fragment about a fatal minibus crash caused by a blowout:
1) In what proximity is "camp trans" from Mich Fest?
2) How secure are the shuttle van/s when not in use? (are they guarded?)
3) Could trans terrorist actions have lead to leaking out the air in the shuttle van/s tire in order to subvert the transportation of WBW to/fro Mich Fest?
4) As I have recieved many death threats myself from "trans" sufferers and I am only a single butch woman with a short history of speaking out against trannyism, am I being paranoid to think that "trans fundamentalist" would stoop so low to disrupt a 30+ year strong woman only event?
The comments in response are illuminating.

That it gets beyond accusations and into threats is shown by this thread at the MWMF forum. It's a minority, but when that minority claim to have unauthorised access to confidential information held by the IRS, and say they'll use that power to trigger an audit in order to terrorise a minority group, it strays beyond the bounds of "Freedom of Speech" and into the realm of Hate Crime.

Whether mere malicious mendacity or criminal conspiracy requiring an IRS internal investigation is debatable - that it gives some idea of what we're up against is not.

I have to feel sorry for them though. I have my own troubles, but to live with such hatred inside your head all the time, well, I count my blessings.

Friday 15 August 2008

Laminated Mouse Brains

Well, close enough. It's a Hybrot controlled by cultured rat braincells.

More over at New Scientist, though regular readers of this blog will already know the basic theory, as I posted about it 2 years ago, and indeed, as far back as 2003.

"Laminated Mouse Brains" are a reference to Cordwainer Smith's Think Blue, Count Two , from Galaxy Magazine, Feb 1963.
...Tiga-belax came in, very cheerful indeed... In his right hand there was a black plastic cube wih shimmering contact-points gleaming on its sides. The two technicians greeted him politely.

"I've got that beautiful child taken care of... I've used a mouse-brain."

"If it's frozen," said the first technician, "we won't be able to put in the computer..."

"This brain isn't frozen," said Tiga-belas indignantly. "It's been laminated. We stiffened it with celluprime and then we veneered it down, about seven thousand layers. Each one has plastic of at least two molecules thickness. This mouse can't spoil. As a matter of fact, this mouse is going to keep on thinking forever. He won't think much, unless we put the voltage on him, but he'll think. And he can't spoil..."
And from the other direction... Using a Supercomputer to Simulate a Mouse Brain. Well, half of one. At one-tenth speed. For ten seconds. But we're getting there.
On other smaller simulations the researchers said they had seen "biologically consistent dynamical properties" emerge as nerve impulses flowed through the virtual cortex.

In these other tests the team saw the groups of neurons form spontaneously into groups. They also saw nerves in the simulated synapses firing in a ways similar to the staggered, co-ordinated patterns seen in nature.

The researchers say that although the simulation shared some similarities with a mouse's mental make-up in terms of nerves and connections it lacked the structures seen in real mice brains.

Imposing such structures and getting the simulation to do useful work might be a much more difficult task than simply setting up the plumbing.
Growing a mind is the hard part. What we've done is to invent canvas, brushes and pigments. We're yet to paint the Mona Lisa.

Thursday 14 August 2008

A Nose is a Nose is a Nose..

Following on from a previous post on "Male-to-female transsexuals show sex-atypical hypothalamus activation when smelling odorous steroids"....

From the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences :
MHC-correlated odour preferences in humans and the use of oral contraceptives
Previous studies in animals and humans show that genes in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) influence individual odours and that females often prefer odour of MHC-dissimilar males, perhaps to increase offspring heterozygosity or reduce inbreeding. Women using oral hormonal contraceptives have been reported to have the opposite preference, raising the possibility that oral contraceptives alter female preference towards MHC similarity, with possible fertility costs. Here we test directly whether contraceptive pill use alters odour preferences using a longitudinal design in which women were tested before and after initiating pill use; a control group of non-users were tested with a comparable interval between test sessions. In contrast to some previous studies, there was no significant difference in ratings between odours of MHC-dissimilar and MHC-similar men among women during the follicular cycle phase. However, single women preferred odours of MHC-similar men, while women in relationships preferred odours of MHC-dissimilar men, a result consistent with studies in other species, suggesting that paired females may seek to improve offspring quality through extra-pair partnerships. Across tests, we found a significant preference shift towards MHC similarity associated with pill use, which was not evident in the control group. If odour plays a role in human mate choice, our results suggest that contraceptive pill use could disrupt disassortative mate preferences.
The sense of smell - or absence of it - has been associated with various Intersex conditions, in particular Kallman Syndrome. We know (from the previous post) that transsexual woman have female-typical senses of smell when exposed to sex hormones. Now it seems that hormone levels may affect more complicated neurological functions in females, in particular, what kind of guys smell yummy.

In my own case, one of the first symptoms I noticed and recorded during the peculiar change was a drastically more sensitive sense of smell. The area was being re-wired, though all I could do was record the signs, without attempting to hypothesise about causation.

I really wish I could have had a series of fMRI scans at the time, just to see what was happening. An opportunity lost, though given my fragile mental state at the time, I was too busy trying to merely ride it out.

This part of the puzzle is still more gaps than pieces, with tantalising hints about connections between the functioning of the lymbic system, in particular the hypothalamus, ovulation, hormone levels and olefactory sensation. It's too early to even speculate, we need more data, but I can't help thinking that there's something there. But what, and how to design experiments to test hypotheses? I'm putting it in the "too hard" basket for now, anyway.

One thing we can do, once we adopt the theory (no longer a hypothesis) that gender determination resides in the lymbic nucleus, is to figure out what the implications of that are in other areas.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Phytoestrogens and the Hypothalamus

From Science Daily :
Two hormone-like compounds linked to the consumption of soy-based foods can cause irreversible changes in the structure of the brain, resulting in early-onset puberty and symptoms of advanced menopause in research animals, according to a new study by researchers at North Carolina State University.
The study is the first to show that the actual physical organization of a region of the brain that is important for female reproduction can be significantly altered by exposure to phytoestrogens – or plant-produced chemicals that mimic hormones – during development. Specifically, the study finds that the compounds alter the sex-specific organization of the hypothalamus – a brain region that is essential to the regulation of puberty and ovulation.
While the study examined the impact of these compounds on laboratory rats, neurotoxicologist Dr. Heather Patisaul – who co-authored the study – says the affected "circuitry" of the brain is similar in both rats and humans. Patisaul is an assistant professor in NC State's Department of Zoology. Her co-author is Heather Bateman, a doctoral student in the department.

Patisaul says this finding is extremely important because, while the changes in brain structure cannot be reversed, "if you understand what is broken, you may be able to treat it."
Patisaul says that this study is also "a step towards ascertaining the effects of phytoestrogens on developing fetuses and newborns." Patisaul adds that these phytoestrogenic compounds cross the placental barrier in humans and that, while many people are concerned about the effects of man-made compounds on human health, it is important to note that some naturally occurring substances can have similar effects.
Patisaul explains that the brains of both female rats and female humans have a region that regulates ovulation. "That part of the brain," Patisaul says, "is organized by hormones during development – which is the neonatal stage for rats and during gestation for humans." Patisaul says the new study shows that the female brain is "critically sensitive" to genistein and equol during this crucial stage of development – and that this may indicate that the brain is also especially sensitive during this period to all phytoestrogens and possibly other man-made chemicals, such as bisphenol-A.
Another part of the puzzle, indicating the importance of even relatively small doses of hormones on the development of the hypothalamus during gestation.

Phytoestrogens are very mild, and very ineffective. The many patent "breast enlargement" cremes made using them are 99.99% Snake Oil, with effective doses 1/10,000 that used in Hormone Replacement Therapy. In those particularly sensitive, there may be some measurable clinical effect: but dissolving one birth control tablet in a full bath, and taking a teaspoonful of the resultant liquid would have a greater effect.

It does lead to some concern though - the possible pollution of the water supply with oestrogen. Most of the contents of birth control pills are excreted in urine, and end up unchanged in the environment. Most is quickly broken down, or at least, we think it is. It should be. There are experts keeping an eye on the situation, and it's a topic at every conference on endocrinology.

Phytoestrogens appear to be just one of the defence strategies that various plants have evolved to stop over-predation by animals. Many plants produce toxins. But a few produce significant quantities of hormones that interfere with the predators' reproductive systems.

Never trust a vegetable. They're sneaky.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Today's Battle

Well, I for one accept people with AIS just as they are, and I will NOT believe they are the product of sin, AKA "The Devil's Spawn".

Posted by:
blasnyblasny 5:05 AM
We're making progress, over at ABC, and a program on Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome.

And as a sign of further progress, here in Australia, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has opened up a new blog covering "Sex and Gender Diversity" - the Transgendered, Transsexual, and Intersexed. First order of business - clearing up the mess of legal status and documentation.

Moving the mountain one teaspoonful at a time.

Monday 11 August 2008

The Galaxy Zoo

Dear Galaxy Zoo users,

Thanks for making Galaxy Zoo such a success!

With your help, we've been able to collect millions of classifications, with which to do science faster than we ever thought possible. We are currently preparing the first science papers for submission to peer-reviewed journals and we will keep you posted on the progress of the papers on the BLOG and the FORUM. From now on, if you classify galaxies on the ANALYSIS page, your classifications will continue to be recorded and will be part of the public release, but it won't be part of the first round of papers. Don't be alarmed if the galaxies are odd, this is part of the process of checking our results.

But we still need you! As part of our follow-up work, we need volunteers to review our set of possible merging galaxies. If you're already familiar with basic Galaxy Zoo analysis, click here to read the instructions and click here to take part. Galaxy Zoo 2 will go live in the near future featuring a much more detailed classification system, while further off we plan GalaxyZoo 3 with lots of exciting new data. We'll notify all of you via the newsletter when we're able to start these two new endeavours.

From AssociatedContent :
Hanny Van Arkel is not an astrophysicist or an astronomer. She does not even own a telescope. But that did not stop the 25-year-old school teacher living in Harleen in the Netherlands from making a startling astronomical discovery, thanks to a website called Galaxy Zoo.

Hanny Van Arkel was pouring over photographs of galaxies on the Galaxy Zoo Internet site when she noticed a bright, gaseous mass with a hole in the center. Hannah Van Arkel duly posted a query about the object on the Galaxy Zoo web site.

Galaxy Zoo is the brainchild of Yale University's Kevin Schawinski and Oxford's Chris Lintott. The idea was the post a millions images of the night sky taken by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope in New Mexico and to ask the public to help classify the galaxies thus imaged; elliptical, spiral, or other. The human eye is much more sensitive than a computer at discerning patterns such as those of galaxies. Galaxy Zoo has garnered the help of hundreds of thousands of amateur astronomers eager to help in the classification effort.

Hanny Van Arkel's discovery, now called Hanny's Voorwerp or "Hanny's Object" is thought to be a circle of hot gas with a hole in the middle about 16,000 light years across and illuminated by a nearby quasar. Various Earth bound telescopes are attempting to image the object and the Hubble space telescope is scheduled to turn its mirror on Hanny's Voorwerp next year.

Anyone can log on to Galaxy Zoo and help in classifying galaxies imaged by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope. There is a tutorial that helps the amateur astronomy distinguish between a spiral galaxy and an elliptical galaxy. A spiral galaxy has a central bulge and spiral arms, much like our own Milky Way Galaxy. An elliptical galaxy has only the bulge with no disk or spiral arms.

And news about our own galaxy, the Milky Way, from NASA :
Now, new images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope are shedding light on the true structure of the Milky Way, revealing that it has just two major arms of stars instead of the four it was previously thought to possess.
Since the 1950s, astronomers have produced maps of the Milky Way. The early models were based on radio observations of gas in the galaxy, and suggested a spiral structure with four major star-forming arms, called Norma, Scutum-Centaurus, Sagittarius and Perseus. In addition to arms, there are bands of gas and dust in the central part of the galaxy. Our sun lies near a small, partial arm called the Orion Arm, or Orion Spur, located between the Sagittarius and Perseus arms.

"For years, people created maps of the whole galaxy based on studying just one section of it, or using only one method," said Benjamin. "Unfortunately, when the models from various groups were compared, they didn't always agree. It's a bit like studying an elephant blind-folded."

Large infrared sky surveys in the 1990s led to some major revisions of these models, including the discovery of a large bar of stars in the middle of the Milky Way. Infrared light can penetrate through dust, so telescopes designed to pick up infrared light get better views of our dusty and crowded galactic center. In 2005, Benjamin and his colleagues used Spitzer's infrared detectors to obtain detailed information about our galaxy's bar, and found that it extends farther out from the center of the galaxy than previously thought.
The findings make the case that the Milky Way has two major spiral arms, a common structure for galaxies with bars. These major arms, the Scutum-Centaurus and Perseus arms, have the greatest densities of both young, bright stars, and older, so-called red-giant stars. The two minor arms, Sagittarius and Norma, are filled with gas and pockets of young stars. Benjamin said the two major arms seem to connect up nicely with the near and far ends of the galaxy's central bar.

"Now, we can fit the arms together with the bar, like pieces of a puzzle," said Benjamin, "and, we can map the structure, position and width of these arms for the first time." Previous infrared observations found hints of a two-armed Milky Way, but those results were unclear because the position and width of the arms were unknown.
In other words, "mostly armless", like the Venus de Milo.

Georgia on my Mind

From Lawyers, Guns and Money :

We're likely to here quite a lot from the right about Russian perfidy in the next couple of days, but the situation is, of course, a lot more complicated than all that. Both the Abkhazians and the South Ossetians would, apparently, rather not be part of Georgia. The Georgians are, I think, correct to suggest that this isn't the full story; ethnic cleansing of Georgians has taken place in both locales, both are pretty much run by gangsters, and the Russians have been playing non-stop shenanigans. Principles also clash; countries shouldn't be able to just set up private fiefdoms in neighboring countries, but people shouldn't be forced to live in countries where they don't want to live.

Information from MSM is sparse and contradictory. One of the best summaries is at the blog mentioned above, in the section Confrontation in the Caucasus.

So far we have the Georgians claiming to have essentially surrendered over Ossetia, but the Russians keeping on going into Georgia and attacking the city of Gori despite this, with paratroops and forces entering Abkharzia too; A naval blockade, with the Georgian Navy coming off second best against overwhelming enemy forces near the port of Poti; And Abkharzian forces making hay while the sun shines, with 1000 troops set to attack (with Russian aid?) the strategic Kodori gorge.

We don't know enough though, the information is too poor at this stage to say exactly what is happening. Or more importantly, why.

Update: Also worth a look is Our Man in Tblisi.

Friday 8 August 2008

Computer Woes

Time to get a new laptop. This morning, some milk was spilt on the keyboard.

And unless I press some complex combination of Fn, Alt, Shift, and CapsLock, different for each letter, the sentence above looks like;

T50e t6 get a new 3a-y6-. Th5s 06rn5ng, s60e 0532 was s-53t 60 the 2eyb6ard.

Panspermia Hypothesis now fashionable

From Wired:
"Studies have shown that microbes can survive the shock levels of being launched into space," said Charles Cockell, a microbiologist at the Open University. "And as more and more organisms are discovered under extreme conditions, it's become more plausible that things could survive in space for the time it takes to go from one planet to another."

Not long ago, Cockell's claims would have been greeted with scientific derision. But as scientists learn more about Earth and space, the theory, which goes by the grandiose name of "galactic panspermia," seems less far-fetched.
More about this hypothesis in previous posts Too Many Planets and Hate, Life, the Universe and Everything.

Just because it's fashionable doesn't mean it's correct of course. I think it is though, fashionable or not. The Universe is not a popularity contest, and facts are facts, whether we like them, or even believe them, or not. I could be wrong, I could be right, Time will tell. The important thing is to retain some measure of intellectual honesty, trying as best one can to be objective, while acknowledging and publicising one's inherent subjectivity. Neither being afraid to forthrightly and firmly express an opinion honestly come to, nor to acknowledge contrary evidence.

Readers of this blog will know I do the first; and I honestly try to do the second as well. How far I succeed is a matter for others to decide, not me.

Thursday 7 August 2008

Scheduling the Olympics

Not the Modern ones - they start tomorrow. The Originals.

From News Daily:
A mechanical brass calculator used by the ancient Greeks to predict solar and lunar eclipses was probably also used to set the dates for the first Olympic games, researchers said on Wednesday
Using three-dimensional, X-ray technology, researchers deciphered tiny inscriptions buried inside the device's fragmented brass pieces that pointed to its Olympic role.

The name "Nemea" was found near a small dial on the mechanism, a reference to the site of one of the prominent games in the Olympiad cycle, the researchers said. Locations such as Olympia also appeared.

"It really surprised us to discover that it also showed the four-year cycle of ancient Greek games, including the Olympic Games," said Tony Freeth, a researcher at the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project who worked on the study.

The ancient Olympics were first recorded in 776 BC and continued until they were banned by the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius I around 394 AD.
More on the Antikythera Mechanism in a previous post. It's historical, it's geeky, of course I blogged about it!

Today's Battles

Over at the Washington Times, though again, that's on GLB rather than TS/IS issues. Not my fight, but I can't be a mere bystander.

At the Greeley Tribune once more. They wrote:
Buck's actions and words diffused any notion that Greeley, which is seen by some as an intolerant town, would put up with this kind of behavior just because Zapata was transgender. And he also showed that Greeley would mourn her like we would anyone else killed in such a vicious manner.
My reply
I'm crying as I write this.

Oh, I know the facts, that transgendered people are 17 times more likely to be victims of homicide than the general population. I know that (to quote several papers) "Religious conservatives are hoping a referendum on a Montgomery County law protecting transgender people could become a template to repeal similar measures across the country." I know it, but I'm used to it, it's just the way things are. Water off a duck's back.

It's like Cancer, a fact of life, bad things happen to good people, you just move on. I don't cry over the persecution, I do what I can to end it.

So why the tears?

I'm not used to being treated as ... Human. I don't know how to handle it. And I wonder how it is that things could ever have come to this pass, that I'm so accepting of being treated as an animal, as if it's normal.

Thanks, Greeley. I needed reminding of my humanity.
I meant it too. I've become far too accustomed to this new definition of "normal" I've had since 2005. It seems far too easy to think "well of course I have to fight, the situation's unusual, you can't expect people to treat me as human".

On to Catholic Online, assuming they publish my comments. My bet is they will, the Catholics in general are pretty tolerant of polite dissent.

Thence to the Gainsville Sun, and the Bathroom Question.
Rob11UF wrote:
I am absolutely amazed at this. Everyone who has taken a stance on this issue, from the supporters to the protesters, is definitively, factually wrong. Call the Florida Senate and confirm what I have already checked: there is NO law in the state of Florida that prohibits, or even addresses, who uses which bathroom. At this moment, it is perfectly legal for a man to enter and lawfully use a bathroom marked WOMEN, and vice versa. In every square foot of the state of Florida. Fools. There has never BEEN a law that made any criminal or civil penalty for a person using a bathroom designated for another gender. It's just been a closely grained social norm.

pennst99 replied:
Then why did they feel is necessary to pass the law in the first place?

Because it's not about the Bathrooms at all, stupid, it's about being able to put the niggers gays back in their place. They're LYING.

I was a little more diplomatic though in my wording.

Finally, not a battle, but a worthwhile commentary. A Heart Condition at To a T.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

The Glass Ceiling Experiment

From :
There's still that glass ceiling and a double standard. Old stereotypes and old expectations still exist. It's not fair. It's so outdated, but is still exists in a culture that remains predominantly patriarchal. The only way for it to go away is to chip at it over time.

She should know.

Most men don't really believe the extent of the Glass Ceiling. Oh sure, things were bad in the past, and they're not perfect now, but it's no big deal.

Well, that's what I used to think prior to 2005, based on the evidence I could see with my own eyes. Talking with other women though, they saw things differently. I was the only male colleague they felt they could open up to, like they could a woman, and so I was troubled by some of the things they told me, how they were treated. This was especially the case in Germany.

To determine the extent of the problem though, you'd really have to set up an experiment. Have the same person, not merely opposite-sexed identical twins, but someone with the same CV and basic personality, appear serially as a man, and a woman, and see what happens. How they're treated in the employment market and workplace.

The article at describes a situation pretty close to that. It's in complete accord with my own limited experience too.

During my transition, I was lucky enough to be contracted to a very unusual firm. Software Improvements, a bunch of very impressive engineers.
Our unofficial company motto - No Problem Too Strange - shows that our Engineers relish tackling the technical challenges that no-one else has ever attempted before. And our record of achievement shows we're good at it.
Electronic Voting, Spaceflight, Naval Combat Systems, Systems Engineering Tools, Laser Therapeutic Devices, Avionics... they do all that. Stuff that often has to work fist time, every time, or Bad Stuff™ happens. People going blind. People dying.

They even coped with one of their number rapidly changing sex before their eyes. My contract was extended and extended again, until my work was complete. That really is outside the realms of the experiment, and I was in no position to take notes anyway. I don't think that either the company culture, or any of the employees, could be bigoted if they tried. Heck, I was always the token Rightie, and still accepted. They were, and are... atypical. Unique even. High Geniusses all.

After that, it was 5 months before I started my PhD. I dabbled a little in the employment market, but not heavily. I just wanted a short-term contract for a few months. Most positions advertised as that had the expectation that if things worked out, it would extend, and probably lead to a permanent role. Besides which, if I didn't get an offer, I never knew if it was because I was obviously TS or not. Since then, I've been in the Great Sheltered Workshop that is Academia, and so again, I've been more an observer than a participant.

I remember one phone interview though. It was like the old joke about the 5 whites and the black who were being considered for membership in a Bible Study group.

The first white was asked which Biblical Character lost his strength when his hair was cut.
"Samson" he said. The interviewer said "You're in".
The second white was asked what weapon he used.
"The Jawbone of an Ass" he said. "You're in".
The third white was asked "Who were his enemies?"
"The Philistines" he said. "You're in too."
The fourth white was asked "How many did he kill?"
"Ten thousand" he replied. "So are you."
The Black was asked "What were their names?"

I was prepared to answer questions about my extensive experience with UML, especially x/tUML. The first question though was "what are the first names of the Three Amigos. (Grady Booch, James Rumbaugh, and Ivar Jacobson BTW).

Now I'd had a good talk with Stephen Mellor just a few months previously, and had some correspondence in the past with Grady Booch when he was formulating and formalising his ideas. But Rumbaugh and Jacobsen's first names escaped me, that was historical stuff, I wasn't taught it, I helped make it!

There was no second question, and I was roundly ticked off for being a "useless female" just wasting his time.

Lisa Kansas has two good articles on how it is to be the only female engineer in a mid-sized company, and I suggest you read both of them. Plus my own comments.

I've looked at Life
From Both sides now...

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Chez Brain

In Google Maps - now with Street View.

It's a quiet street. We like it.

Monday 4 August 2008

6 (point 6) Degrees of Separation

But in extreme cases, the 29 steps.

From the Grauniad :
In a world of 6.6 billion people, it does seem hard to believe. The theory of six degrees of separation contends that, because we are all linked by chains of acquaintance, you are just six introductions away from any other person on the planet.

But yesterday researchers announced the theory was right - nearly. By studying billions of electronic messages, they worked out that any two strangers are, on average, distanced by precisely 6.6 degrees of separation. In other words, putting fractions to one side, you are linked by a string of seven or fewer acquaintances to Madonna, the Dalai Lama and the Queen.
Eric Horvitz and fellow researcher Jure Leskovec considered two people to be acquaintances if they had sent one another a message. They looked at the minimum chain lengths it would take to connect 180 billion different pairs of users in the database. They found that the average length was 6.6 hops, and that 78 per cent of the pairs could be connected in seven steps or fewer. But some were separated by as many as 29 steps.
Horvitz told the Post: 'To me, it was pretty shocking. What we're seeing suggests there may be a social connectivity constant for humanity. People have had this suspicion that we are really close. But we are showing on a very large scale that this idea goes beyond folklore.'

A 'degree of separation' is a measure of social distance between people. You are one degree away from everyone you know, two degrees away from everyone they know, and so on. The concept was popularised by John Guare's 1990 play, Six Degrees of Separation, which was turned into a film starring Will Smith, Stockard Channing, Donald Sutherland and Ian McKellen. One of the characters says: 'I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find it extremely comforting that we're so close. I also find it like Chinese water torture, that we're so close because you have to find the right six people to make the right connection ... I am bound, you are bound, to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people.'
Of course, if you are reading this, there's only one degree between us. And four three degrees between your children and my son.

Small world, innit?

Trans Panic

It's all too common that when a Transsexual woman is killed, that the crime is not considered to be "really" murder. The more extreme elements think it's more like laudable pest extermination, but they (thankfully) are in a minority.

All too often though, a sizeable proportion of the heterosexual male population think that it may be "understandable", if a bit extreme. So the penalty should be about the same as for mere common assault, that the killer was provoked by being defiled. She was asking for it.

The result is that bails and bonds are set at absurdly low levels, and killers get to walk free in the community, sometimes for years. And sometimes with the prosecution lapsing. About the same treatment they'd get for unlawfully killing any other animal.

From Out and About :
Last night, WREG-TV in Memphis reported that the man who was charged with the February 16, 2006, murder of Tiffany Berry, has now been arraigned on a second murder charge. On Thursday, authorities in Shelby County charged DeAndre Blake with the murder of his own two year old daughter.

At the time of this second murder, Blake was walking the streets of Memphis as a free man on a $20,000 bond. According to Berry's family, Blake admitted he had killed Berry because he did not like the way she had "touched" him.
Yes, that's right, a killer was free for two and a half years. Free to kill again - a child this time. A full human being, not a third class citizen, whose death was "understandable".

Sunday 3 August 2008


From The Free Dictionary:

n. pl. a·nom·a·lies
1. Deviation or departure from the normal or common order, form, or rule.
2. One that is peculiar, irregular, abnormal, or difficult to classify: "Both men are anomalies: they have . . . likable personalities but each has made his reputation as a heavy" David Pauly.
3. Astronomy The angular deviation, as observed from the sun, of a planet from its perihelion.
It has a special meaning in Rocket Science though. It means that something has gone wrong, is out of tolerance, is not according to plan. Or all too often, Gone Wrong. It is the word you most don't want to hear at a launch.

That was (past tense) the third attempt at launching the Falcon 1, a commercial space venture of some promise. The first stage worked, though there are some worrying minor rotations and corrections. But it looks like the second stage didn't separate, with.... an anomaly as the result.

Back to the old drawing board. But first, an extensive forensic analysis of the telemetry, to diagnose the cause. Hopefully something simple and easy to fix.

My sympathies to the Falcon team, but also to the team that built the payload.
From Space.Com:

The rocket was expected to deploy its cargo, the small, cube-shaped FalconSat-2 satellite built by U.S. Air Force Academy, about 10 minutes after launch. The $800,000 satellite was designed to measure the effects of space plasma on communication and global positioning satellites. The mission carried a $6.7 million price tag covered by the U.S. Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

"We were of course very disappointed," U.S. Air Force Academy spokesperson John van Winkle told, adding that cadets packed the FalconSat-2 flight control room to capacity to watch the attempted launch. "We were so excited to see it finally lift off."
What is especially heartbreaking is that this is "the little satellite that could". It miraculously escaped intact (mostly) from a previous launch failure in 2005. From Wikipedia
FalconSAT-2 - Significantly damaged when Falcon 1 launch vehicle failed seconds after launch. Despite the loss of the launch vehicle, the satellite landed, mostly intact in a support building for the launch vehicle. It was originally scheduled for launch on STS-114 with the Space Shuttle Atlantis in January 2003. Its payload was the MESA instrument (Miniaturized electrostatic Analyzer), which would have been used to sample plasma in the upper atmosphere. The data would have been used to correlate the effect of ionospheric plasma on trans-ionospheric radio communications.
More on the history of FalconSat-2 in this Word document.

Saturday 2 August 2008

Today's Battle

A little late - posting to my blog was blocked due to a suspected TOS violation.

Anyway, I point out that it's not that Reparative Therapy has never been tried, just that it's never been successful, over at This isn't really my fight, it is about Sexual Orientation, not Gender Identity or Intersex conditions. But most people don't see the difference, and just because I'm not a Patagonian, Gay, or Taoist doesn't mean to say I should let ignorant persecution of Patagonians, Gays, or Taoists go unchallenged.

Over at the Greeley Tribune, I expound on the inhuman murder of Angie Zapata.
Let's look at the facts -

We have a professional criminal's confession.
He sexually assaulted a girl belonging to a persecuted minority group by grabbing her crotch.
He bashed the girl's head in.
He covered up the body while deliberately removing evidence of the crime
When the critically injured victim started moving, he deliberately finished her off
He stole the victim's car.
He stole and used the victim's credit card.
He stole other property of the victim which hasn't been recovered.

Now with those facts alone... how could anyone doubt that he'd be convicted of Murder in the First Degree?

Now suppose he was claiming that she duped him - he didn't know she was Jewish when he allowed her to bring him off. Hmmm, that just adds "hate crime" to the list, it's not an excuse.

Or suppose he was claiming that she duped him - he didn't know she was only "passing" for white. That excuse wouldn't work either.

Ah, but a Tranny! Oh well, murder was going a bit far...
Many of the other comments are what I would expect around 1920 if a teenager "passing for white" was brutally slain. Transsexuality - the new Black.

Over at Night Whispering, there's a blog who's having the same problems with blocking as I am. Hopefully my comment will have appeared by the time this post does, I've had a most delightful e-mail from the author. He's the type of pastor who gives Christianity a good name, and I urge anyone who thinks all those with doctrinal differences are bigoted to read his blog, and comment with respect and politeness. If you disagree, merely state your case rationally, and he may not agree, but he will listen, and reply. You should do the same for what he says too. Listen, with the thought in the back of your mind that you may be wrong. That's what he does. He also tries to help, it's not all talk.

More over at ABC News, where a large section of opinion is that transsexuals are not worthy of being classed as fully human, with equal human rights.