Wednesday 31 August 2011

ISS Alert: Astronauts May Have to Abandon Station this Fall

This is where screwing up the US space program gets you.

ISS Alert: Astronauts May Have to Abandon Station this Fall
Astronauts may need to temporarily abandon the International Space Station if last week's Russian launch accident prevents new crews from flying there this fall. Until officials figure out what went wrong with Russia's essential Soyuz rockets, there will be no way to launch any more astronauts before the current residents have to leave in mid-November. The predicament comes just weeks after NASA's final space shuttle flight.
Suffredini said flight controllers could keep a deserted space station operating indefinitely, as long as all major systems are working properly. The risk to the station goes up, however, if no one is on board to fix equipment breakdowns.
As long as nothing goes wrong, all is well. Or well-ish. But once you trim things down too much... things fall apart. The centre cannot hold.

Friday 26 August 2011

From the Tennessee Sheriff's Handbook

Without comment.

Nevertheless, the Eighth Amendment does not require the separate placement of inmates based on sex. Galvan v. Carothers, 855 F.Supp. 285 (D. Alaska 1994) (The placement of a female inmate in an all-male prison wing did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.); Dimarco v. Wyoming Department of Corrections, 300 F.Supp.2d 1183, 1192-1194 (D. Wyo. 2004) (The placement of an intersexual inmate, who was of alleged female gender but was anatomically situated as a male due to the presence of a penis, in segregated confinement for a period of 438 days, with concomitant severely limited privileges, solely because of the condition and status of ambiguous gender was not a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment where the safety of the inmate and other inmates was secured by placing the inmate in administrative segregation, and the inmate was provided the basic necessities of food, shelter, clothing and medical treatment.); Lucrecia v. Samples, 1995 WL 630016 (N.D. Cal. 1995) (The transfer of a transsexual inmate to an all-male facility and her housing in an all-male cell did not violate the due process clause where the inmate failed to demonstrate the infringement of a liberty interest.).

From Breaking Out of the Prison Hierarchy: Transgender Prisoners, Rape, and The Eighth Amendment
On December 17, 2002, Kelly McAllister filed a claim against Sacramento County, its district attorney, and the sheriff’s department, alleging threats and slurs based on her transgender status, battery, and an assault that culminated in rape.

McAllister is a five-foot seven-inch, 135-pound pre-operative transsexual in her mid-thirties, who has lived as a woman for several years.

She was arrested in connection with a reported public disturbance.

After McAllister’s court appearance, she was placed in a cell with a larger male in-mate who brutally raped her.

Her attorney claims that the sheriff’s department knew of McAllister’s transgender status,but still placed her in a cell with a man.

McAllister’s ordeal typifies the risk faced by male-to-female (MTF) transgender persons incarcerated in jails and prisons across the country.
Note that they don't have to be convicted - just arrested. And the alleged crime need not be serious - being too near a disturbance for example, or asking why you're being detained. You don't have to be actually guilty of any crime at all, it does you no good if the judge dismisses all charges as ridiculous if you've been pack-raped and infected with HiV. Or murdered in jail.

I know one trans woman who was arrested on suspicion of being an "English Spy" in Orange County, California, due to her accent. Fortunately the desk sergeant dealt with the matter before she was put in jail awaiting trial for it. Not all police are quite so thick, nor quite so bigoted.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Riots and Responsibility

From the UK Telegraph
What real people know – and have known for quite a long time – is that the great tacit agreement which once held civic life together has been deliberately blown apart. There was a time within living memory when all reasonable grown-ups were considered to be on the same side. Parents, teachers, police, judges, politicians – decent citizens of every station and calling – formed an unspoken confederacy to uphold standards of behaviour within their own communities.

One thing though: what kind of example is being set by many who are in the “Upper Class” these days? It used to be that there was some kind of noblesse oblige. Bankers were expected to be reputable and honest, with the exceptions few and far between, and (this is the important point) punished severely when found out. The same with financial institutions - engage in irresponsible financial shenanigans, and they go bankrupt.

Now MPs caught en flagrante delicto fiddling their expenses get light taps on the wrist, except in the most egregious cases. Financial institutions are “too big to fail”, their corruption rewarded by public bailouts. And in the US, the head of the IRS suffers no penalty for rorting the tax system, engaging in not just quasi-legal but blatantly illegal conduct, and gets let off.

“Laws are for the little people”.

The scum at the top., like the dregs at the bottom
“will behave badly just because they can, because no one is stopping them, or has ever inculcated in them the conscientious discipline that would make them stop themselves.”

They do this because they can, and because they know they will get away with it. And because everyone else is doing it too.
The indispensable tools of social stigma and moral judgment that communities used to have at their disposal for this purpose have been stripped away, and the result – the fearless defiance of helpless authority – is what we saw in its terrifying logical conclusion...

But enough about the bailout of the bankers, the "Friends of Angelo", the misuse of "sovereign immunity" that allows some police in the USA to get away with murder, and I do mean that literally.

Let's talk about the London Riots.

Except we have been doing. What's the damage, 5 lives lost? Perhaps half a billion dollars in property damage? Fear of chaos and lawlessness in the community?

That's small beer against the cost of the financial malfeasance and misfeasance that has put the world economy on the skids. But it's the same thing at a local, rather than global, level. And we can no longer go about things the same old way.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Sex Dimorphism of the Brain in Male-to-Female Transsexuals

Another part of the puzzle:

Sex Dimorphism of the Brain in Male-to-Female Transsexuals by Savic I, Arver S Cereb. Cortex (2011)

Our group recently employed in vivo investigations and found that smelling of 2 putative pheromones, which in heterosexual subjects normally leads to a sex differentiated activation of the hypothalamus, causes a sex atypical activation in estrogen na├»ve MtF-TR (Berglund et al. 2008). This observation corroborated with previous anatomical findings in transsexuals but provided no information as to whether and how the hypothalamic networks, which in animal studies are shown to be involved in “sexual behavior,” would be also engaged in the perception of “sexual identity.” Understanding the biology of gender dysphoria requires consideration of additional cerebral networks identified as sexually dimorphic than the hypothalamus. Considering that the sense of discomfort with sex characteristics of the own body is the main feature of gender dysphoria, it is important to also investigate the cerebral networks reported to be involved in own body perception and perception of self. Luders et al. recently addressed some of these issues by an explorative voxel-based morphological (VBM) analysis of the gray matter (GM) fractions. They found that GM volume in the putamen was more pronounced in MtF-TR than in male and female controls, particularly on the right side (Luders, Sanchez, et al. 2009). While the GM in the putamen did not differ significantly between male and female controls, these data, nevertheless, emphasized the possibility that gender dysphoria could be associated with an altered anatomy also in brain regions located outside the hypothalamus.
So far, so good.
Only nonhomosexual, transsexual subjects were included. The rationale was the following; Although there is still an ongoing discussion about the classification of transsexual individuals (Blanchard et al. 1987, 1989; Lawrence 2005; Smith et al. 2005), the general view is that there are 2 fundamentally different types of transsexualism: homosexual and nonhomosexual (Blanchard et al. 1987). Homosexual MtF-TR are erotically attracted to the same biological sex and denoted as “androphilic” MtF-TR in the literature. They differ from those attracted to the opposite biological sex (“gynephillic” MtF-TR) and those who are not sexually attracted to other persons; The 2 latter groups are referred to as autogynephillic by the so called Blanchard’s classification (Blanchard 1989; Smith et al. 2005). Blanchard reported that homosexual transsexuals as usually younger at initial presentation and with more pronounced and frequent childhood femininity (Blanchard 1989). Homosexual transsexuals have also been found to be shorter, lighter, and lighter in proportion to their height, also in relation to men in the general population, whereas nonhomosexual transsexuals have been found to be similar in height as controls (Blanchard et al. 1995).
*SIGH* In other words, they assume that Transsexual women are actually men. So if attracted to men, must be homosexual. *SIGH* again. Why not just use "androphillic" and "gynephillic"? That way you don't beg the question, especially when dealing with Intersex people.

Group differences in regional GM volume. Colored clusters were calculated from the following group comparisons: (A) HeW-HeM (left), HeM-HeW (right). (B) MtF-TR-HeW (left), HeW-MtF-TR (right). (C) MtF-TR—HeM (left), HeM-MtF-TR (right). Contrast calculated at T corresponding to P = 0.001 at pixel level, P < 0.05 corrected, minimum cluster size 0.4 cm3. Clusters are superimposed on the standard brain, SPM5. The scale is arbitrary showing T-values between 0 and 6.5. The lines indicate the 3 regions in which the gray matter fraction differed between transsexuals and controls. Notably, these regions were similar independently of whether the controls were men or women.

Only right-handed (Oldfield 1971), unmedicated, and healthy subjects were included. Exclusion criteria were history of severe systemic disease, any psychiatric (other than gender dysphoria), or neurological disorder, drug abuse including anabolic steroids or psychiatric medication, and use of hormonal contraceptives in women and hormone supplement in MtF-TR.
OK, so we've only included straight women with straight trans women, and are looking at trans women who have had no hormonal therapy. And cut out a lot of trans women, as they have a higher rate of non-right-handedness than the general population as part of the syndrome.

That seems to have shackled a lot of the variables. Sure, the trans women are unrepresentative of trans women as a whole, but with the hormonal balance of males, and the sexual orientation of (straight)females, and the winnowing out so only the least different from the norm regarding handedness are included, that really means that if any neural atypicality is found, we can't look to explanations other than transsexuality for it.

So let's look at what was found in detail:
MR volumetry outside the hypothalamus has, to the best of our knowledge, hitherto not been reported in transsexuals, and the presently observed reductions of the thalamus and putamen volumes in MtF-TR have no precedents. Neither have increases of GM volumes in the temporoparietal junction, and the insular and inferior frontal cortex been described earlier.
1. We're looking at areas outside the ones that have been looked at before. Differences have been found that match neither a male nor female stereotype.
It should be emphasized that the present data, being focused on extra hypothalamic structures, do not disapprove previous reports about sex-atypical hypothalamic dimorphism in transsexuals (Swaab et al. 1992; Zhou et al. 1995). Furthermore, they were generated exclusively from investigations of nonhomosexual, gynephillic MtF-TR.
2. The results are consistent with previous ones about lesbian trans women having (in some sense) "female brains", though in other senses, not. It's not that simple.

3. That Trans people have brains whose structure in some areas matches neither a Male nor Female stereotype. The differences extend beyond the hypothalamus.
The issue of possible cerebral difference between gynephillic and androphillic (homosexual) MtF-TR and also between androphillic MtF-TR and homosexual healthy men is of special interest and needs to be addressed separately in future studies. Additional studies of the relationship between brain structure and function in transsexual persons and also extending the material to female to male transsexuals are necessary to more precisely interpret the present observations.
4. We're only looking at a small subset of Trans people, and we need to sort out what bits are to do with sexual orientation, and what bits are to do with gender identity. And finally, the bottom line:
The observed differences between MtF-TR and controls raise the question as to whether gender dysphoria may be associated with changes in multiple structures and involve a network (rather than a single nodal area).
5. It's not simple! The whole is different from the sum of its parts.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Marriage, Change, and Eternal Commitment

From the New York Times: Modern Love - My Husband Is Now My Wife
I’d wept without warning after dinner because I would not see his face again, his perfectly average face with a sizable nose and weak chin, the face I’d held and kissed and been happy to greet for eight years.

“Do you still have your wedding ring on?” I asked. “They said to take it off.”
It wasn’t until we were married that my husband, finally feeling loved, admitted to himself that he was transsexual. That he was, inside, a woman. That he did not want to be the man I married.

Stunned and wounded, I located a therapist, read transgender books, found support online and confided in the lone friend I entrusted with my secret. My husband and I continued to talk, to love.

Over time I came to believe that my husband, as my wife, would be in most ways the same person: intelligent, compassionate, mature, with the same slim build. I’d had a relationship with a woman in my early 20s, so living as a lesbian was agreeable enough, though I mourned the societal ease we would lose.
WHEN we reached the house, I asked if she minded staying in the car while I tended to the pets, knowing our entrance would be chaotic otherwise. She nodded yes.

The house was warm, but I turned the heat up to make it toasty. I imagined my life if the person in the car didn’t exist. Easier, but empty.

I returned and roused my dozing partner, spouse, wife. We shuffled inside and into our bedroom, which I’d stocked with her medications, ice bags and gauze. I maneuvered her under the covers and fluffed her pillows. I took her wedding band from the beaded box and slipped it over her finger.
We’d been in bed almost 12 hours when a gray light filled the room. Still under our covers, we were warm and safe. Soon enough, we would face the world. I pulled my right arm from the sleeping bag and took my partner’s hand. We stayed like that, side by side, until the sun rose on our first day in this foreign land.
I teared up a bit when I read that.

I didn't require skull reconstruction - for that is what aggressive Facial Feminisation Surgery is. My Face may not be my fortune, but it's mine, and never was terribly masculine anyway. Similarly, I've had no breast augmentation, no prosthesis, even though with my barrel chest my breasts get a bit lost in the shuffle.

Genital reconstruction though was needed due to the mess that was left after the change hit. It was important to me psychologically too.

I was never much of a husband, and never thought of myself as one of those - and I don't think of myself as a wife - but I was, and am a partner.

I wish this couple well, and I hope both can settle down into a common or garden lesbian relationship. My partner and I are both straight, so that wasn't our fate, but our love remains eternal. We no longer have intimacy, but we do have physical affection. Our marriage hasn't changed at all there, we love each other just as much as we did over 30 years ago.

Monday 22 August 2011

Australian Human Rights Consultation

Consultation on draft Baseline Study
The Australian Government has committed to developing a National Human Rights Action Plan in consultation with civil society. An effective and forward looking Action Plan needs to balance areas of need and take an evidence-based approach to setting priorities.

The Baseline Study aims to assist with that. The Baseline Study builds on the findings of the 2009 human rights consultations to present a picture of the status of human rights in Australia by:

  • outlining relevant statistics and other research on key human rights issues
  • noting relevant recommendations from Australia’s recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations
  • highlighting major government initiatives already in place, and
  • proposing issues that a National Action Plan could address.

In doing so, the Baseline Study importantly recognises potential gaps and negative human rights experiences which could be addressed in the National Human Rights Action Plan. We hope this consultation on the draft Baseline Study will prompt thoughts and suggestions of actions to address human rights issues in the National Human Rights Action Plan.
So now you have the opportunity to stick your oar in, to change the direction of the Ship of State.
3.5.3 Freedom from discrimination

According to the Australian Coalition for Equality, gay, lesbian, bisexual and sex or gender diverse people continue to report experiencing higher incidents of discrimination, prejudice and violence over a life time than the rest of the population in Australia.[1] All State and Territory anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression, sex or gender identity, or the identity of a partner. However, some participants in the National Consultation were of the view that the legal protections are inconsistent.[2] The Australian Government has committed to introducing legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. That legislation would apply consistently across Australia.

3.5.4 Sex and/or gender diverse people

The concluding paper of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Sex and Gender Diversity Project identified ongoing issues of discrimination for the sex and/or gender diverse community within the realm of legal recognition of sex in documents and government records. The following key issues were raised in the paper:
  • Under most State and Territory legislation, a married person cannot apply to have their sex changed on their birth certificate.[3]
  • A person cannot apply to have their birth certificate changed to note their sex identity if they have not undergone sex affirmation surgery.[4]
  • Gender identification in records is largely binary (male/female). Passports can be issued with ‘X’ but only if the person’s birth certificate notes their sex as indeterminate.[5]
  • Requirements to record any previous name can divulge information about a person’s previous legal identity because the name is gender specific.[6]
The Federal Attorney-General has tasked his Department with coordinating a review of how and why the Australian Government collects sex and gender data. The Department will also work with relevant Australian Government agencies and State and Territory governments to consider developing a nationally consistent approach to legally changing sex.


[1]Australian Coalition for Equality, Submission to the National Human Rights Consultation, 2009, pp 121-122.
[2] Ibid p 123-124
[3]Australian Human Rights Commission, Sex Files: the legal recognition of sex in documents and government records – Concluding paper of the sex and gender diversity project, 2009, p 23.
[4] Ibid p 24
[5] Ibid p 27
[6] Ibid p 28
Not to "develop" a consistent approach, certainly not to "implement" a consistent approach, but to "consider developing" a consistent approach. One day. In the Fullness of Time.

So it's up to us, the voters, to hurry them up a little.

Closing date for submissions is the 31st - so we better hurry too. Submissions may be via the online form, or via e-mail.

We might start with this issue:
Ever since I transitioned from male to female the Passport Office has been acting strangely. When I wanted to change my passport I had to produce evidence that I had really changed my name, that I had really had irreversible genital surgery and that I was no longer married.

Then I was eligible for a passport that said “F” where it used to say “M”, but it still arrived with a testy note telling me this was all so that I could travel without embarrassment and that if I tried to use my passport to marry a male I would be liable to a fine of $5000.00 or six months in prison, or both. So it wasn’t intended to identify me as a woman but simply to allow me to pass myself off as a woman.

For a time the Passport Office would issue a temporary passport in a person’s target gender, but only if they were travelling in order to have the mandatory irreversible surgery required before documentation could be amended.

Then Border Security, under Lord Downer of Baghdad, rescinded even this tiny concession and stated that everyone had to travel on passports that matched their birth assignment, or on a Document of Identity, which showed no gender and was therefore liable to attract undue attention. Nor did a Document of Identity guarantee re-entry into Australia.

Grace Abrams took the Passport Office to the Supreme Court because she was denied a female passport unless she was willing to divorce her wife. She wasn’t, and she won her case.

Stefanie Imbruglio, on her way to have gender affirmation surgery in Thailand, travelled on a passport that showed her gender as male and encountered discrimination and harassment from various gatekeeper authorities. She took them on in the courts after she returned and won her case.

Recently Marcelle (who prefers not to give her surname) gained a female passport without surgery as a pre-requisite, since her profession requires her to travel and she will not travel on the highly questionable Document of Identity. It took seven months of negotiation but after going to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal she won her case.

When another transgendered woman tried to use Marcelle’s case as a precedent she was refused because the AAT decision was “a settlement on mutually agreed terms”, not binding on other cases.

Friday 19 August 2011

Air Sharks - and Clownfish too

Available via - when they're back in stock, and their servers are getting hammered pretty hard too. The manufacturers, x-zylo, have a fascinating range of other aerial toys too.

When I was young, I would definitely have preferred a Shark rather than a Fairy. Not exactly terribly feminine, I know. I had an inflatable shark bought in Italy when I was 6. Named "Cutty", as in "Cutty Shark".

I used to cuddle Cutty in bed, along with Neberick Moledewarp, my plush aerodynamic mole. OK, I'm weird. But my readers already know that.

Thursday 18 August 2011

More, Please, and Faster

From FierceBiotechResearch: Stanford researchers separate tumor-causing stem cells from therapeutic ones
A major obstacle to widespread therapeutic use of human embryonic stem cells is this nasty tendency for a few of them to turn "Frankenstein" on us. Out of the tens of millions of pluripotent cells used in therapy, cells that have been "programmed" by scientists to become any type of specified adult tissue, a few go rogue and become dangerous tumors called teratomas when transplanted into patients. So, researchers at Stanford University, writing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, describe a method to get rid of the cells that can become teratomas before they are used in humans.

"The ability to do regenerative medicine requires the complete removal of tumor-forming cells from any culture that began with pluripotent cells," Stanford's Irving Weissman said in a release. "We've used a combination of antibodies to weed out the few undifferentiated cells that could be left in the 10 or 100 million differentiated cells that make up a therapeutic dose."
This deals with a recently detected problem: the fact that stem cells have far more mutations on them than we'd like a problem first detected in March:
The article mentions a couple of studies into the genome of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are adult cells that have been reprogrammed into stem cells. They, in turn, could be transformed into any type of tissue. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, sequenced the gene-coding portion of the genome in 22 iPS cell lines that had been reprogrammed. "Every cell line we looked at, we found single [genetic-letter] mutations in the protein-coding region, an average of six mutations per cell line," Zhang told Technology Review. A disproportionate number of the mutations appeared in genes involved in cell growth or in genes that have been previously linked to cancer.
This is a Big Deal, as the use of stem cells promises many breakthroughs in reconstructive medicine.

Basically, in a mature body, these unprogrammed cells migrate to a place where a cell is needed, and based on the local environment, are programmed to become the type of cell needed. This is the mechanism by which patients who have had bone-marrow transplants gradually become genetically identical to the donor - as described in an earlier post.

Our bodies are not so much objects, as processes. We are performance art, rather than a static display, changing slightly from day to day. And our somatic identity is not determined by our genes, it's a construct where genes are part of the process, not the whole story.

I've had to write an extensive chapter on this issue (amongst the many others involved in Evolution), and the distinction between Genotype and Phenotype for my PhD thesis. It's the Phenotype that determines the "Fitness" of an entity in a population, but the Genotype that determines what characteristics are transmitted to the next generation. The Phenotypes of the next generation are influenced by more than just genes, but the environment too. Many phenotypes can result from a single genotype - just ask any pair of Identical Twins. They comprise a clone, genetically identical, yet the bodies have subtle differences. Genes don't so much define the body, as define the range of possible bodies, and the chances of various characteristics manifesting, depending on foetal environment. Two genetically identical foetusses in two different host mothers may differ considerably.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Push for reform on gender law confusion

From the Canberra Times : Push for reform on gender law confusion
Transgender Canberrans have had unwanted hysterectomies, been detained at airports and suffered workplace discrimination, submissions into a Law Reform Advisory Council inquiry reveal.

Responses to the council's inquiry into the legal recognition of transgender and intersex people in the ACT call for sweeping reforms to the territory's laws to ensure the protection of human rights.

ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner Helen Watchirs said the Birth, Deaths and Marriage Registration Act needs to be amended to remove requirements for a person to have sexual reassignment surgery before they can change their sex on the birth register. She said current requirements breach an individual's right to privacy, movement and freedom of expression.
The commissioner recommended laws be amended to include a definition of ''non-binary gender'' and said unnecessary genital surgery on an intersex child should be delayed until they are old enough to provide consent.

In a joint submission, A Gender Agenda and the Women's Legal Centre said changing a person's legal sex should be based on self-identification.

They said genital and reproductive organ surgery should only be performed on children who are old enough to make an informed decision.
ACT Law Reform Advisory Council chair Simon Rice said the submissions highlighted the bravery of the local transgender and intersex community.

''Through a lack of awareness of difference they experience instances of direct discrimination,'' he said.

I've had a small input to this process as part of the Australian National University's panel of experts on the issue, advising the ACT Law Reform Council. No guarantees, the report will be delivered in November, but there is considerable bipartisan support for humane legal reforms in this area. The aim is to provide a "best practice" legal template for other states and territories to follow.

Tuesday 16 August 2011


How deep a hole is the US economy in?

That deep. And they're still digging.

Sex on the brain

From New Scientist : Sex on the brain: What turns women on, mapped out
It's what women have been telling men for decades: stimulating the vagina is not the same as stimulating the clitoris. Now brain scan data has added weight to their argument.

The precise locations that correspond to the vagina, cervix and female nipples on the brain's sensory cortex have been mapped for the first time, proving that vaginal stimulation activates different brain regions to stimulation of the clitoris. The study also found a direct link between the nipples and the genitals, which may explain why some women can orgasm through nipple stimulation alone.
Some have argued that women who derive pleasure from vaginal stimulation do so because their clitoris is being indirectly stimulated, but the current findings contradict this. "They support the reports of women that they experience orgasm from various forms of stimulation," says Beverly Whipple, also of Rutgers University, who was not involved in the current study.

Komisaruk also checked what happened when women's nipples were stimulated, and was surprised to find that in addition to the chest area of the cortex lighting up, the genital area was also activated. "When I tell my male neuroscientist colleagues about this, they say: 'Wow, that's an exception to the classical homunculus,'" he says. "But when I tell the women they say: 'Well, yeah?'" It may help explain why a lot of women claim that nipple stimulation is erotic, he adds.

Something that tends to cheese women off : having male doctors tell them what they must be feeling, when said male doctors have no actual evidence to back up what they say.

Next time, believe her, OK doc? Because the MRI images show that your arrogant ideas aren't actually true, as any woman could have told you - and female medical professionals probably did, you just ignored them.

On a personal note, it's obvious my neural anatomy (in this area at least) is strongly female, and always has been. It's good to have the peripherals match the device drivers at last. That's all I'm saying on the subject.

Monday 15 August 2011

Catching Up

I'm in the middle of publishing all the draft posts for the last week that I wrote but didn't finalise.

The reason why I got behind is because my PhD thesis, and a whole heap of family health issues meant that something had to be put on the back burner for a while.

However, today, my thesis-writing-up went well, and I now have a reasonable expectation that I'll have it completed, peer-reviewed by my supervisory panel, checked and revised before the deadline, despite the problems I've encountered with converting Open Office documents to PDFs. It's all in my head now, just a matter of expressing the concepts in written form, concisely and clearly.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Gender change from female to male in classical CAH

One for the reference library, from 1996; Gender change from female to male in classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia. by Meyer-Bahlburg et al, Horm Behav. 1996 Dec;30(4):319-32.
The psychoendocrinology of the development of normal gender identity and its variations is poorly understood. Studies of gender development in individuals born with endocrinologically well-characterized intersex conditions are heuristically valuable for the disaggregation of factors that are acting in concert during normal development. Four 46,XX individuals with classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) and atypical gender identity entered a comprehensive research protocol including systematic interviews and self-report inventories on gender role behavior and identity, sexual history, and psychiatric history. Some of the data on gender variables were compared to data from 12 CAH women with the salt-wasting variant (CAH-SW) with female gender identity. The four patients (ages 28, 35, 38, and 30 years) represented three different subtypes of classical early-onset CAH: 21-OH deficiency, simple virilizing (CAH-SV); 21-OH deficiency, salt-wasting (CAH-SW); and 11-beta-OH deficiency. Their medical histories were characterized by delay beyond infancy or lack of surgical feminization of the external genitalia and progressive virilization with inconsistent or absent glucocorticoid replacement therapy. Although three patients had undergone one or more genital surgeries, all had retained at least some orgasmic capacity. In regard to childhood gender-role behavior, the four gender-change patients tended to be more masculine or less feminine than (behaviorally masculinized) CAH-SW controls. All patients were sexually attracted to females only. The process of gender change was gradual and extended well into adulthood. The most plausible factors contributing to cross-gender identity development in these patients appeared to be neither a particular genotype or endocrinotype nor a sex-typing bias on the part of the parents but a combination of a gender-atypical behavioral self-image, a gender-atypical body image, and the development of erotic attraction to women. Implications for psychosocial management are also discussed.
Like everything else, this study suffers from small sample size. Nonetheless, one for the reference library. I'm sure those wedded to the idea that atypical Gender Identity (not to say sexual orientation) is caused by absent fathers etc will continue to ignore such evidence anyway.

Friday 12 August 2011

The London Riots

From the BBC : Showing the rich we do what we want

Please listen to some of the rioters express the reason for their actions in their own words. It's the Rich people's fault, you see. Those that own small businesses, or their own cars for that matter. They're just showing them that the law doesn't apply to the rioters, they can do anything they want. It's good fun.

Thursday 11 August 2011

An Alternate Universe

From the MightyGodKing blog, a what-if. Scenes From An Alternate Universe Where The Beatles Accepted Lorne Michaels’ Generous Offer
April 24, 1976. Lorne Michaels offers the Beatles $3,000 to appear on Saturday Night Live, as a gag mocking the full-page ads taken out in the New York Times offering the Beatles millions of dollars to reunite and play in Shea Stadium. Unbeknownst to Michaels, both John Lennon and Paul McCartney are in New York City at the time, and see the sketch airing live. They consider actually going to the studio, but decide they are too tired.
That much is history. Now go to the MightyGodKing site and read on to find out what happened next in a Universe next door...

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Oh Dear

A 2009 article from the Pew Research Centre that if it doesn't scare you, should. On Darwin's 200th Birthday, Americans Still Divided About Evolution - Pew Research Center

I'm scared to ask how many think the Earth is Flat, as the Good Book says.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Just The Facts, Ma'am

From Business Week, an article by Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto explaining why things are in such a mess economically. The Destruction of Economic Facts
The importance of economic facts may not be obvious to Americans. "What does the fish know about the water in which it swims?" asked Albert Einstein. But it's easy to grasp from the perspective of the developing and former communist countries where I live and work. In these countries, most of our assets and relationships are in the informal sector, outside the legal economy. Because they're not recorded in public memory systems, they cannot be written up as facts and are, in effect, invisible. All we have are shadow markets.

Without standardization, the values of assets and relationships are so variable that they can't be used to guarantee credit, to generate mortgages and bundle them into securities, to represent them in shares to raise capital. Nor do they fit the standard slots required to enter global markets. That's why credit crunches and massive unemployment are chronic conditions for most people forced to operate in the informal economy. These are the ones you see protesting in the streets of Arab countries or living in tents surrounding Port-au-Prince. We know only too well that facts don't speak for themselves: They have to be constructed through legal processes and kept transparent. They have to be defended, too.

When then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson initiated his Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in September 2008, I assumed the objective was to restore trust in the market by identifying and weeding out the "troubled assets" held by the world's financial institutions. Three weeks later, when I asked American friends why Paulson had switched strategies and was injecting hundreds of billions of dollars into struggling financial institutions, I was told that there were so many idiosyncratic types of paper scattered around the world that no one had any clear idea of how many there were, where they were, how to value them, or who was holding the risk. These securities had slipped outside the recorded memory systems and were no longer easy to connect to the assets from which they had originally been derived.
A bit of a worry. But you want to see something really scary?
Oh, and their notional value was somewhere between $600 trillion and $700 trillion dollars, 10 times the annual production of the entire world.
As they say, read the whole thing. It might be an idea buying some silver too - not notes which affirm that you own some in a vault somewhere, but the physical article. No need to get much, but it might make you sleep better at night.

Monday 8 August 2011

Those were the voyages....

My political comment on Those were the voyages, a narrative of past glories, faded dreams and the US Space Program, by James Lileks.

There are so many problems the US faces in having a manned space program.

1. Lack of Leadership. President Obama’s attitude towards establishing a lunar base is
“We’ve been there before.”
He sees the manned space program as a series of bigger and better publicity stunts. His speeches are statements of intent for a plan to be made by someone, sometime, in the nebulous future, details to be worked out by future administrations.
“We’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history…By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it.”
But nothing concrete during his administration.

2. Congressional Pork. The attitude of the POTUS is actually an advabce on the attitude of Congress, The whole space program is seen as a way of buying votes for individual congresscritters, funneling money to their congressional districts. If nothing actually gets accomplished, so much the better, as it means the largesse will continue. The last thing they want is the gravy train to be derailed by premature success.

3. The “Can Do” attitude of NASA administration – along with blatant dishonesty trying to sell their projects by minimising the likely costs, and over-promising performance. Then when they only get 70% of the money actually needed, not having the guts to say “no, we can’t do this, either give us what’s needed or don’t waste money on a project that’s doomed from the start.”

4. Misinformation amongst the general public about the situation. Many people think the US is routinely flying not just Interplanetary manned missions, but Interstellar ones. That we have FTL. They don’t realise that our current capabilities are about the same as they were in 1960.

5. Misinformation amongst the general public about the budget allocated to NASA. Many think it must be 10% or higher. Some think it must be 30%, or more, rivalling HEW or the Dept of Defence. In fact, it’s 0.5c in the dollar. The total amount spent under the Obama administration on space development is far less than was spent to bail out GM.

I expect a Chinese permanent presence on the Moon by 2050. Probably not self-sustaining by then, but lunar exploration being about as routine as Antarctic exploration today (ie not very). And just as with Antarctica, the discovery of lots of resources too, to be developed in the century after that. The Moon is an excellent place to make the “baby steps” needed before tackling Mars and the Belt.

I don’t see the USA participating in this, though US companies may dominate LEO by then.

Friday 5 August 2011

Stanford Uni - Human Sexual Behaviour

It gets particularly interesting at 01:23:50. More free lectures available on the Stanford University Youtube channel.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Simon Lewis: Don't take consciousness for granted

Simon Lewis: Don't take consciousness for granted
After a catastrophic car accident that left him in a coma, Simon Lewis found ways to recover -- physically and mentally -- beyond all expectations. At the INK Conference he tells how this remarkable story led him to concern over all threats to consciousness, and how to overcome them.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Indian man has hysterectomy

From the UK Telegraph:
An Indian farmer and father of two had a hysterectomy after doctors discovered a "full female reproductive system" in his lower abdomen.
The Indian man, identified as Ryalu, was admitted to a hospital near Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, after complaining of severe stomach pains.

Doctors suspected a normal hernia, but when they carried out an exploratory operation they were shocked to discover it had been caused by a female uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, a cervix and underdeveloped vaginal tissue.
I wonder what his scar looks like? One from bikini line to breastbone perchance? And at least they told him afterwards.

I still don't know what was removed along with my gallbladder back in 1980. Just that it didn't belong in a body that was supposed to be male - but I can't imagine it could have been anything nearly as completely developed.

These things happen. Nature's not quite as tidy as most believe.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

US Manufacturing Output

The Gross Domestic Product, after the multi-trillion dollar "stimulus package", is growing. Just. But failing to keep pace with inflation and population growth - so GDP per capita continues to fall, whereas in every other recession since WWII, it had recovered by now.

Growth in gross domestic product – a measure of all goods and services produced within U.S. borders – rose at a 1.3 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said. First-quarter output was sharply revised down to a 0.4 percent pace from 1.9 percent.

Economists had expected the economy to expand at a 1.8 percent rate in the second quarter.
Well, some did.

Monday 1 August 2011

An Australian Pediatric Surgeons view of Intersex

Results from a pediatric surgical centre justify early intervention in disorders of sex development by Crawford et al, Journal of Pediatric Surgery Volume 44, Issue 2 , Pages 413-416, February 2009

Controversy persists surrounding early management of disorders of sex development. We assessed genital appearance, gender identity, and quality of life in prepubertal children who have had early surgical intervention.


Children treated for disorders of sex development who were 5 to 10 years of age were eligible (n = 54). Children were scored (modified Creighton scale) for anatomical and cosmetic outcome, and both patients and parents completed PedsQL quality-of-life and gender identity questionnaires, with ethics approval.


Of 54 patients, 41 presented for review. Treatment began at 13.2 (1.8-250.1) months (median; range) and were reviewed at 7.5 ± 2.1 (mean ± SD) years of age. Nineteen were raised as girls and 22 as boys. Girls had good (85%) or satisfactory (15%) anatomical/cosmetic outcome, whereas 52% boys had good, 38% satisfactory, and 10% poor cosmetic outcomes. On gender identity questionnaire, boys scored 3.9 ± 0.4 (mean ± SD) and girls 3.6 ± 0.5; 1 of 19 boys and 3 of 19 girls had lower scores, suggesting risk of gender identity disorder. Quality-of-life scores were 80+ for physical and 65 to 80 for psychosocial scores.


Early intervention is generally associated with positive outcomes for patients and parents. Girls had better anatomical outcomes than boys, and gender dysphoria risks were low in both sexes.

So it's clear: Early Intervention is good, no if's and's or but's.

Let's look a little closer though at the details, by looking at the authors' illuminating reply to critique:
Triea et al suggest that without evaluating sexuality, sexual relationships, and sexual functioning, follow-up studies of DSD patients are meaningless. Although we agree that these are important outcome measures in older patients and should be included in research involving older cohorts, these issues are not yet measurable in our study population aged 5 to 10 years. Furthermore, we do not feel that the age-appropriate assessment of children with DSD should be ignored because of their lack of sexual maturity, and we maintain that the issues of genital appearance, sex identity, and quality of life are important during childhood and not merely in adolescence. In addition, we have already performed a long-term review addressing the issues raised by the authors, and this is cited below [2].
In their letter, the authors have rightly pointed out that a good cosmetic result from feminizing genital surgery does not imply normal sexual functionality, and in our article, we did not suggest anything to the contrary. We acknowledge that achieving sexually functional genitalia for DSD patients through surgery is one of the most integral components of DSD management and deserves attention in follow-up studies of these patients. However, as this is an inappropriate measure in our young pediatric patients, we chose to evaluate cosmesis alone as we believe this independently is still a valuable outcome measure. Normal-appearing genitalia are a key factor in appropriate sex development in children, and early surgery eliminates the shame and secrecy of possessing atypical genitalia. Also, parental anxiety is relieved by normalization of the genitalia of children with DSD, and although this alone is insufficient reasoning to subject these infants to surgery, the resultant promotion of bonding between parent and child is of substantial benefit to children with DSD.

In response to the authors' objections regarding the ability of children to meaningfully answer questions regarding sex identity, we would like to highlight that the questionnaire on sex identity was completed by parents rather than the children themselves, as stated in the methods section of our article.

The authors have also argued that our assessment of sex identity in these patients is meaningless in that sexuality was not taken into account. We acknowledge that sexuality is an exceedingly important issue for adolescent and adult DSD patients and would have been included as an outcome measure had we been studying an older cohort. However, the concept of sex is largely considered to be a triumvirate consisting of sex identity, sex role, and sexuality. The questionnaire completed by parents encompassed the 2 former components, allowing for an assessment of sex development in our young patients. Although we acknowledge that appropriate sex development in this cohort does not preclude issues with sexuality in the future, we maintain that a sex identity and sex role concordant with sex-of-rearing is important across the lifespan of DSD patients, including in childhood.

The concern raised by the authors regarding the stigmatization of patients with DSD as well as unnecessary invasions of their privacy are legitimate...This is also why we decided that the children would answer only one questionnaire (quality of life) that was generic in nature, and the questions regarding sex role and sex identity would be answered by their parents.

[2] G.L. Warne, S. Grover and J.M. Hutson et al., A long-term outcome study of intersex conditions, J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab 18 (6) (2005), pp. 555–567

So to summarise:
  • Quality of Life was only measured Generically.
  • The only Success metric for surgery was cosmesis, regardless of the effects of fertility or sensation.
  • And they didn't measure gender discordance by asking the child - only the parents.

And on that basis, they make the blanket statement that early surgery is justified.
"Normal-appearing genitalia are a key factor in appropriate sex development in children, and early surgery eliminates the shame and secrecy of possessing atypical genitalia."

And if the child isn't properly ashamed of their body, there must be something wrong with the little freak.

It's all about appearances, you see. Not upsetting other people - the reconstructive surgeons themselves. The parents too of course, and society, but really it's all about how the surgeons feel.

The critique? Letter to the Editor Trier et al, Journal of Pediatric Surgery Volume 44, Issue 9, September 2009, Page 1863
Studies such as this are meaningless unless they evaluate children as adolescents and young adults who have reached the age of sexual maturity and attempted to have sexual relationships. The cosmetic appearance of girls' genitals is largely irrelevant in evaluating sexual functionality. This is often overlooked; it may be easier to surgically fashion reasonable-looking external vulvae, but it is difficult to make female genitals that allow comfortable, practical, painless heterosexual sex.

The same is true in this study's evaluations of sex identity, which is essentially a meaningless concept to 5- to 10-year-olds, because it does not take into account the nature of their sexuality. Five to ten-year-old children do not have the experience and perspective to meaningfully answer questions that hinge upon sexuality and adult sociosexual identities.

When these studies are done with adults with disorders of sex development who are living with all of the sociosexual sequelae of their earlier interventions, we find that everything is not quite as rosy as this study claims. What do children do when they are members of these studies, after years of medicalization, probing interviews, exposure to curious medical personnel, and possibly public exhibition of their bodies? They will want to please their parents and tell adults what they have learned that they want to hear.

Kirra Triea

Milton Diamond
University of Hawaii
John A. Burns School of Medicine
Pacific Center for Sex and Society
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA

William G. Reiner
Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
Oklahoma City, Okla 73104, USA