October 2009

Dodgy Dopamine

by Limbic on October 30, 2009

Dopamine is thought of as the pleasure and reward neurotransmitter. New research is revealing that it is not quite a simple as pleasure drug: 

In the emerging view, discussed in part at the Society for Neuroscience meeting last week in Chicago, dopamine is less about pleasure and reward than about drive and motivation, about figuring out what you have to do to survive and then doing it. “When you can’t breathe, and you’re gasping for air, would you call that pleasurable?” said Nora D. Volkow, a dopamine researcher and director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Or when you’re so hungry that you eat something disgusting, is that pleasurable?”

In both responses, Dr. Volkow said, the gasping for oxygen and the wolfing down of something you would ordinarily spurn, the dopamine pathways of the brain are at full throttle. “The whole brain is of one mindset,” she said. “The intense drive to get you out of a state of deprivation and keep you alive.”

Dopamine is also part of the brain’s salience filter, its get-a-load-of-this device. “You can’t pay attention to everything, but you want to be adept as an organism at recognizing things that are novel,” Dr. Volkow said. “You might not notice a fly in the room, but if that fly was fluorescent, your dopamine cells would fire.”

In addition, our dopamine-driven salience detector will focus on familiar objects that we have imbued with high value, both positive and negative: objects we want and objects we fear. If we love chocolate, our dopamine neurons will most likely start to fire at the sight of a pert little chocolate bean lying on the counter. But if we fear cockroaches, those same neurons may fire even harder when we notice that the “bean” has six legs. The pleasurable taste of chocolate per se, however, or the anxiety of cockroach phobia, may well be the handiwork of other signaling molecules, like opiates or stress hormones. Dopamine simply makes a relevant object almost impossible to ignore.

Should the brain want to ignore what it might otherwise notice, dopamine must be muzzled.

From: A Molecule of Motivation, Dopamine Excels at Its Task – NYTimes.com


Chronicles vs annals vs logs vs records

by Limbic on October 30, 2009

many similar words. Subtly different meanings. All definitions via onelook.com

noun:  a written record of events on a voyage (of a ship or plane)
noun:  a written record of messages sent or received
verb:  enter into a log, as on ships and planes

noun:  a record or narrative description of past events
verb:  record in chronological order; make a historical record

noun:  a chronological account of events in successive years
noun:  reports of the work of a society or learned body etc

noun: a compilation of the known facts regarding something or someone
noun:  anything (such as a document or a phonograph record or a photograph) providing permanent evidence of or information about past events

noun:  a personal journal (as a physical object)
noun:  a daily written record of (usually personal) experiences and observations

noun:  a daily written record of (usually personal) experiences and observations
noun:  a ledger in which transactions have been recorded as they occurred

Noun: a list or register of events (appointments or social events or court cases etc

noun:  a schedule of times of arrivals and departures
noun:  a schedule listing events and the times at which they will take place

noun:  a record or narrative description of past events


Islam’s war on freedom

by Limbic on October 30, 2009

Rory passed on this old but fantastic Pat Connell classic.

“They have tried to make it illegal to criticise evil. Its a bit like because thew bacteria are offended.”

Via YouTube – Islam’s war on freedom]



by Limbic on October 28, 2009

“Featherbedding is a pejorative term for the practice of hiring more workers than are needed to perform a given job, or to adopt work procedures which appear pointless, complex and time-consuming merely to employ additional workers. The term “make-work” is sometimes used as a synonym for featherbedding.

The term “featherbedding” is usually used by management to describe behaviors and rules sought by workers. But featherbedding has also been occasionally used to describe rent-seeking behavior by corporations in response to economic regulation. The term may equally apply to mid- and upper-level management, particularly in regard to top-heavy and “bloated” levels of middle- and upper-level management.”

Featherbedding – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Essential 3rd Act Twists

by Limbic on October 26, 2009

I know this is old, but it is wonderful. This is a detail from “Dresden’s 42 Essential 3rd Act Twists”. Click on it for the full version (mirrored here).

Dresden Codak » Archive » 42 Essential 3rd Act Twists


Holocaust Memorial, Berlin

by Limbic on October 24, 2009

Holocaust Memorial, Berlin, originally uploaded by Limbic.

One of the most extraordinary places I have ever visited.


Language Map of Europe

by Limbic on October 23, 2009

Click for large version

Via Neatorama


The best summary of the BBNP affair

by Limbic on October 23, 2009


I have ready hundreds of columns inches of bunk about the British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin’s appearance of BBC Question Time last night.

The best summary, however, comes from US weblog BoingBoing:

By subjecting nationalist toad Nick Griffin to the Two-Minute Hate, the U.K.’s media establishment turns a fool into a victim. His dismal performance on the BBC’s Question Time would have been satisfying were it not for the hand-wringing hostility that turned it into a circus. Coming next to Britain’s inane tabloids: Nazis portraying themselves as victims of oppression.

It’s no wonder he smirks so much, when his presence induces demands that his political party be banned, his speech suppressed and his opinions abolished. These instincts represent everything his followers want Britain to become: perhaps the irony is not lost on him.

To paraphrase one noted humanitarian, a civilized society would either kill him or give him his bookings.

The BBC disclaims the appearance as part of its duty to impartiality, then spins around to congratulate itself for orchestrating Griffin’s public “humiliation.” Paradoxically British! But the whole mess only goes to prove a simple fact: no-one has ever been so inadvertantly adept as the well-breakfasted BNP leader at poking holes in our pretentions to democratic toleration.

Public convulsions over the BNP’s inconsequential electoral successes make the country appear more divided and insecure than it is. But the BNP’s advances are trivial: proportional representation, a changing media landscape and voter disgust merely reveal the exact form of a longstanding political presence on the fringe.

Freaking out over it just creates a narrative that can be exploited and expanded into yet another bestselling British moral panic. The BNP is like salmonella, satanic abuse and paedogeddon all in one: yummy! And Griffin is thimerosal in your vaccination against media bullshit.

The repsonse to these far-right nutjobs reveals not a principled objection to racism and fascism, but rather the weakness of a political culture built on tradition and the expectaton of common sense. Shouldn’t a democractic society accept a plurality of idiots?



Salaam Europa

by Limbic on October 22, 2009

As the British National Party leader Nick Griffin appears on the BBC tonight, I though it might be interesting posting some exerts from a recent review in Commentary Magazine of Christopher Caldwell’s new book “Reflections on a Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West“. Whilst I will never support the policies or practices of the BNP, I do think the issue of immigration is one of the most important issues in Europe today and deserves a sane, rational discussion about how to manage it best.

The institutional structures of Europe are creaking because it is no longer possible to accommodate both the increasingly extravagant demands of the Islamist minority and the resentment of a no-longer-silent majority. The multicultural model, based on pure relativism, is widely regarded as bankrupt. But it is too late to prevent or reverse the demographic transformation of virtually every major city on the Continent.

…[Caldwell] doubts whether Europe has the moral courage to win over its new immigrant populations in the contest for allegiance. He concludes on a pessimistic note: “For now, Islam is the stronger party in that contest, in an obvious demographic way and in a less obvious philosophical way. Words like ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ mean little when an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident, and strengthened by common doctrines. It is generally the former that changes to suit the latter.”

The key word here is relativistic. For the story that Caldwell sets out to tell is one of relativism applied across the board in every realm of public policy. Instead of helping the waves of immigrants who came to Europe to escape the ghetto and assimilate into the broader society, the new postwar welfare states enshrined in law the new doctrine of cultural relativism, rendering integration impossible. The universal declarations of human rights that were a legacy of the Holocaust ought to have created a new sense of the world and their place in it for these immigrants, who mostly came from countries where such rights did not exist. Instead, the language of human rights was turned against Israel in the name of antiracism, while the Muslim practitioners of wife-beating, forced marriage, polygamy, female mutilation, and terrorism were able to claim the protection afforded by the Left’s political correctness and anticolonialism. Any form of moral or cultural absolutism was taboo (though in practice an exception was made for Islam’s absolutism). “Europe was a place of aspiration for immigrants, and of deference and restraint for the native born,” writes Caldwell. And, as he explains, “any European reluctance to embrace Islamic immigration gets called -Islamophobia. So does any suggestion that immigrants or their children adapt to European ways.”

…A few intellectuals really understand that the liberties of the West are being used to undermine the Judeo-Christian foundations of Europe. Alain Finkielkraut, the French-Jewish philosopher, is one of the few, as he demonstrated when he observed that “anti-racism will be for the 21st century what communism was for the 20th century: a source of violence.”

Caldwell also devotes much space to the European anti-immigrant parties that have emerged in recent years, though he makes a few uncharacteristic slips: Italy’s Alleanza Nazionale, for example, was not founded by Benito Mussolini (died 1945) but half a century later by Gianfranco Fini, and Germany’s far-Right NPD is not the German National Party but the Nazionaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands. However, he is absolutely right that the word fascist is rarely helpful in describing these disparate parties and movements: the assassinated Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, for example, was a “battling kind of radical liberal. He was not a fascist, but he was murdered by someone who was under the impression that he was one.” The problem is that the traditional parties of Left and Right are failing to rise to the challenge of this silent revolution, and they are ceding the response to factions that range from the untraditional to the nightmarishly extreme.

…The most striking single consequence of Caldwell’s European revolution has been the return of the oldest hatred of all: anti-Semitism. Other writers, such as Gabriel Schoenfeld, have already written about the explosion of jihadist Judeophobia, legitimized by the Left, that has accompanied the terrorist assault on the West. Caldwell’s contribution is to explain how the Muslim-immigrant communities of Europe were the true beneficiaries of the post-Holocaust taboo against anti-Semitism among European elites. …The European elites have given themselves permission to express virulent hostility not only toward Israel but also toward “the Israel lobby” (by which is meant the minority of European Jews who publicly defend the Jewish state). The big lie, that the Palestinians are the new victims and the Israelis are the new Nazis, is now fully established in mainstream European discourse. “Far from forgetting the lessons of the Holocaust,” Caldwell notes, “anti-Semites and anti-Zionists were obsessed with them. They were a rhetorical toolkit.”

The underlying problem is the collective amnesia that has afflicted Europe concerning its origins, values, and traditions. Caldwell puts his finger on the problem: “You cannot defend what you cannot define. There is no consensus, not even the beginning of a consensus, about what European values are.” Can these values be both Muslim and European? Yes, says Tariq Ramadan: what is needed is “an acceptance of European culture [by Muslims] through a process of making it their own.” No, said Joseph Ratzinger: the future Pope Benedict XVI declared that the European Union’s promise of membership for Turkey in the 1990s was a “grave error” and -“anti-historical” because the -Islamic roots of Turkey were in “permanent contrast to Europe.”

There are as many views in between these two positions as there are Europeans. But the fact that Europeans no longer agree about what their core values are suggests that they no longer have core values. The vacuum is being filled by a faith that knows precisely what its values are and, funded by the revenues of the oil-rich Orient, is proclaiming those values from the rooftops.

The heart of Europe has been transplanted from Mecca. If you want to know how this happened, and what became of the European civilization that Americans used to know and love, you must read Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe.

[From Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, by Christopher Caldwell]


Simple and hilarious WW1 and WW2 visual primers

by Limbic on October 22, 2009

Comic strip explains World Wars in five minutes – Boing Boing