Fuzzy memories

My memory for some things is awful. It’s a running joke at work, and my graduate students have teased me by admitting their strategy of coming back to me with a research idea that I dismissed weeks ago, with the hopes that I will have forgotten dismissing it, and will get excited about it the second or third time. I can’t say that this strategy hasn’t worked…largely because my memory can be pretty rotten at times. I don’t think it’s pathological, or a sign of early-onset Alzheimer’s. I think some things are salient, and stick, and others are easily dismissed, and forgotten. I also know that memories are quite flexible, and often we remember things very differently from how they actually happened. An article in Vox reminded me of this, and there are other excellent examples out there.

Fair warning, there’s a spoiler below, so if you haven’t listened to the episode of Radiolab called “Reasonable Doubt” and want to/plan to, you might not want to read below the fold just yet.

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No explanation

Anybody who knows me will know that I crave explanations. It’s likely one of the things that’s so appealing to me about being a scientist. I’ve written about the confusion between explaining and justifying before. In fact, a post about this was one of the first things I wrote for Hitting Bregma. As much as I hate it, so many things go unanswered. Last night, many witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in America’s history. What we think we know is that a man named Stephen Paddock opened fire from a hotel room into a country music concert below. As of now, 58 are dead and more than 500 injured (unclear how many were injured by gunshot, and how many were injured in the frenzy during the shooting). This horrific event seems, at least for now, without explanation. For me, that makes it even worse than it already is.

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“Politicizing” tragedy

Bad things happen. Tragedies happen. When they happen, it’s good to help those affected, and it’s good to think about ways to prevent those things from happening again. If they can’t be prevented, it’s good to think about ways to protect us from the damage they cause in the future. These seem like normal responses, yet so often, doing these things gets blasted as an attempt to politicize a tragedy. I really don’t like that critique, and the critique itself seems to be more “political” than actually talking about solutions and prevention.

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Second amendment stream of consciousness

It’s almost impossible to be politically aware these days and not think much about guns and the second amendment. Support for second amendment rights is almost a shibboleth for somebody’s standard as a true conservative, and support for gun control laws is nearly ubiquitous among liberals. This has been a topic of discussion/debate many times in my spheres, and I’ve had a fair amount of time to think about issues related to guns and the second amendment. Given the renewed interest in the topic after the awful attack on republican members of Congress (at baseball practice), I thought I’d put some of my thoughts down, as disorganized as they may be. So here goes, in no particular order.

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“It’s all about trust”

My wife has some strong opinions about things, and some of them she raises over and over again. One (of the many) with which I agree is that trust plays a fundamental role in how we feel about our leaders. We trust some leaders, and we don’t trust others. If we trust a leader, we assume that some action is legitimately justified. If we don’t trust a leader, that same action can be nefarious or a sign of incompetence. I’ll come back to something more contemporary in a minute, but let’s start with Obama and Bush.

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Sad days

[Edit: I’m sure this is rough. I didn’t proofread it before publishing. It’s not supposed to be for anybody else’s consumption anyway. Perhaps I’ll go back and fix it, but if this note is still here, that hasn’t happened yet. For now it’s just a first draft, and a hope at some relief that never seems to come.]

The last week has been full of sadness. We’ve had stories of people dying at the hands of what seem to be poorly trained police officers (although I’m the first to admit that I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a cop), and just last night, at an overwhelmingly peaceful protest about those deaths, madmen struck and shot and killed police officers. Officers who were not involved in any of these horrible stories (and even if they were, it wouldn’t justify killing them), officers who were clearly part of the community, and who were there to help the protesters exercise their first amendment right to assemble. There seemed to be no animosity between the protesters and the police. I’m not sure why that matters to me, but I think it makes it especially sad that the shooting happened there, in a place, Dallas, that has a reputation for making it work, and making it work well.

I try to keep emotion out of this blog, in fact, that’s kind of the rule here, but I’m not sure I can keep it out of this one, and it’s my blog…really my diary, so I can break the rules when I want.

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Rape Culture

The ways that people, particularly women, are mistreated has gotten a lot of attention in the wake of what many (including me) see as a horrible miscarriage of justice. A former member of the Stanford University swim team, Brock Turner, was found guilty on three felony charges: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, sexual penetration of an intoxicated person, and sexual penetration of an unconscious person. Late last week, he was sentenced to six months in a minimum security facility, called a “camp” on the facility’s website. No surprise, people were outraged. I was too. My FaceBook feed was (and is) covered with stories about the incident, statements by the victim, disgust over the statement by Turner’s father, who argued that 20 minutes of bad behavior shouldn’t negate a lifetime of him being a good boy (where’s the vomit bag?). On one of these posts, somebody I don’t know asked an important, but complicated question. Something that I wanted to explore, but didn’t feel like exploring so openly, making Hitting Bregma the perfect avenue.

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So there’s the question, summarized as follows: what do we do about this?

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