Life

Dealing with past trauma, specifically abusers and bullies

I don't need to go into exact details, anyone who has experienced bullies or witnessed any kind of injustice, can probably recall the memories, the pain, and the shame. But what I need to do is deal with it. This is obviously a very personal thing, but I'm putting this here partly out of catharsis, but more importantly because it might help others.

For years the effects of bullying have pained my life, many years beyond the last time I'd ever seen the bullies. I have been anguished and thwart by my fear and by my shame. I also ended up bullying people myself because of being bullied, and that is a terrible thing, I am sorry from the very bottom of my heart and I hope one day that the people I hurt can forgive me and that I didn't do them any lasting damage. In anycase, the consequences of bullying are horrible, so the focus here is on healing after being the subject of bullying or abuse.

The term bully makes what is being done sound childish, but it is not. It is cruel, and it is abuse. In the most direct description it is people hurting other people, and it is wrong.

Bullying causes many emotions but the strongest of these are hurt, fear, and shame.

When I speak of hurt, I'm principally referring to emotional hurt. Although I've experienced physical hurt at the hands of bullies, this was never for me the major issue. I'm lucky to be blessed with a large frame, and my body is very physically resilient. But accompanying physical attacks is the much more damaging emotional hurt caused. I know others are not so lucky, and may have experienced a much greater degree of physical hurt, even to the point of debilitation, and for that I imagine this is going to be even more difficult.

But no, for me, physical damage was only a temporary inconvenience and my rough physique brushed it off as I would brush off a tumble on the snowboarding track.

The hurt that bullying causes is deep and myriad (humiliation, feeling stupid, feeling ugly, etc), but what damaged me most though, regardless of whether there was a physical assault or not, was the mental feeling of subjugation. There is a lot of fear in those moments when the bully toys with you, when the bully holds you in the headlights like the doe. It is a gut wrenching feeling of exposure and vulnerability. At it's worst, you feel paralysed to act and allow yourself to be abused.

This is where the shame comes from. You feel complicit in the act, because you didn't stop it. You feel ashamed to tell anyone about it, in case they reject you, or I guess fundamentally, you are worried that they will no longer love you. The shame allows it to continue, because you don't tell anyone about it. The shame increases your isolation and makes you more vulnerable, so the bullying continues.

The fear causes damage too. Fear is an incredible learning tool. It is perhaps the most powerful agent of change the brain knows of, and for good reason. That lion really can kill you, so you'd better not go near its pride. The roar of the lion, rightly so, should tell you to stay well away from that place, and you'd better not forget it, lest you waste your life getting gobbled up by a big fat Felix.

Fear projects its tendrils deep into you and in bullying and other controlling/violent situations you can learn associations that are incredibly difficult to unlearn. Those people, the bullies, stick in your mind like nothing else, and can reduce you again to your subjugated state, just by being present again in the future.

So you worry, you worry, and worry, and worry, that you'll see the bully again. Because you don't know what to do, you don't know how to handle the situation. You worry all you will do is freeze again, and all you will do is be abused again. It's a terrible terrible thing, and it's tragic yet understandable how someone can be driven to suicide out of absolute pure desperation and helplessness, because they've been trapped in a cycle of fear, isolation, and shame.

Thus, bullying and generally abuse of all forms, is incredibly destructive, and that it is why it is of incredible importance that you deal with it. This is why I'm writing this letter, to deal with it myself.

Now, for many years I did not know what to do. I was full of hate for my bullies, despite sometimes being afraid even to say their names out loud. I was so full of anger and hate for them that I wanted to kill them. I wanted them dead. Now of course, I don't really want to commit these acts, but a greater fear in me was having to feel that feeling again, having to feel powerless in front of the bully, and be abused again. That was my greatest fear, and I had to deal with it somehow, but I didn't know how.

I would dream of smashing the bullies' head in. To begin with the dreams were principally of me being subjected again to abuse, but over time, they became more violent. As the anger within me increased, and as I did nothing to deal with it, the dreams became increasingly horrific. I had one only last night where I ended up stamping on the bullies head, and it was crushed against a metal door holding, causing the bullies' brains to vacate the skull.

I actually encountered one of the bullies last Christmas and he asked me how I was and tried to shake my hand. I reluctantly shook his hand, but I couldn't function properly. I was trapped by fear and doubt. Would I again become a paralysed wreck laying vulnerable, ready to be abused. But something in me had changed, a lot had changed since this bully carried out his hatred on me. I had nurtured a hatred inside myself so great that it was truly more terrifying than he had ever been or ever could be.

The bully asked me "how you doing", but all I could say was "what do you mean, how am I doing?" as if the anger in me demanded recognition from him, as if the affront of this complete indifference was as bad as the former abuse itself. He became confused, and asked me "what's wrong with you?", again I responded "what do you mean, what's wrong with me?". Things were escalating but I felt I had no means to control the situation, I had again been isolated in the situation, as my family were sitting at a table not far away, but somehow I was stuck alone at the noisy bar with the bully. Finally the bully gave up and turned his back to me saying "Well, fuck you then!". This caused paroxysms of rage to erupt within me.

This was him, spitting in my face again (as he had literally done once), this was him showing me he was still the same. I was livid. Without thinking, from amygdala to mouth, I shouted at him "Fuck you, you fucking prick!". He turned around and seemed genuinely confused and perhaps even slightly afraid "What's a matter with you?" he said to me. I just walked off shaking, feeling a mixture of fear and confusion about what had just happened.

I had ignited within myself an even greater problem by doing this. I had caused for myself much more anguish. But I forgive myself because I didn't know how to handle the situation. Nobody told me, nobody supported me, I never told anyone about these bullies until long after there was any use, so I didn't know what to do. I had allowed anger to consume me, I had allowed it to build up over the years, and this had caused my current problem. I'd escalated things because I hadn't dealt with my anger.

I struggled with myself following this incident, told various people to gauge reactions. Some supported me, saying it was right to stand up to him, others scolded me for not just ignoring him. In anycase, I still didn't know what to do, and what I'd do if I saw him the next time.

So, we come back to the dream I had last night, about smashing his skull in. I spoke to my partner about this in the morning, and she told me I needed to deal with these people, forgive them inside myself. I was annoyed about this, because it made me even more angry that these people still had control over me. Still caused me pain. My mind could not accept this. Didn't want to give them the credit. But now I know that it isn't really them, it's me. It's the anger in me that is controlling me, not them.

We had a long discussion, and I realised many things, many obvious truths that are echoed in many great books and religions. And understanding finally what they meant. I will put this into practice, and hopefully, eventually free myself from fear.

--

The first thing to do is to forgive your past self for being bullied. Yes, you abandoned yourself to fear at the time. Your lovely self. You were a coward and allowed yourself to be bullied, these things are true, but are excusable if you have any compassion. You were under a situation of fear, a wonderful mechanism of nature that is genuinely useful, but it doesn't make great judgements about the real threat, it over-reacts, and this can be abused. You couldn't do anything else, given you knowledge and training. You were overpowered by the situation. It happened, accept it.

You are no less of a person for being bullied, if anything it should help you be more compassionate. You are a good person and have a lot of great things to give to the world. That you were ashamed and told nobody, is only because you were ashamed of yourself. Literally, it was you who was most ashamed by your actions, not the fear the effects of shame from others, but you. Because you felt you abandoned by yourself. I guess in part you also felt abandoned by others, because nobody had come to your rescue. But it's OK. It happened, you can't change it. You have to love your former self and forgive yourself.

Now the next thing to do is to forgive the bullies. Yes that's right, forgive them. You cannot carry around a bellyful of hate and expect to be happy, it simply won't work. We are creatures of higher consciousness, and we do not have to conflict with each other. Nature knows this, you know this, and this is built into you. Anger and hatred, do not bring resolution. If you were to kill all the bullies, you would only cause more anguish to yourself and others. It's impossible to cure yourself from anger. Let go.

Forgiving the bullies does not mean that you think what they have done is right, do not make that mistake in reading this. You will see from what I tell you last, that you should never think what they have done is right, and you will never allow yourself to be abused again. But for now, forget that, and forgive the bullies.

Love them. As trite as it sounds, love them. Have compassion for them as human beings. Regardless of what they have done, somehow find a way to love them. This is a very difficult one, but it's like a wife still loving her husband despite his stroke having changed his personality. Deep down at one point at least, assuming they are not truly sociopathic, they were a child and they did not have these impulses to hurt others. Something happened to them, or someone taught them, to be sadistic. Regardless, the loving them isn't for them. It's for you.

Love thine enemies is not about the enemies, it's about you. If you love all creatures, even the bad ones, you will cultivate love, the most powerful and valuable of all things inside yourself.

This is why you must love, because you deserve to be filled inside with love. And nothing, nothing at all should be in there to hold you back.

You can run up against hatred all you want but it will only burn you to pieces. And of course it will, what else could such feelings do but destroy you? In their very essence they are the things you most abhor. You don't want those things inside you, and you must do everything to get them out. Love is the solution, as you have always known it to be. This is why when you see on the news as you probably have, the mother and father of a murdered child professing their forgiveness for the perpetrator, the strained incredulity of it can be understood. It is the only way these people can move on, the only way they can finally let go.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6JsfdJ2lwc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJAoEyt96EM

Love yourself first and foremost, then love your family, and then love everyone else as if they were your family.

So to my bullies, I forgive you, and I love you.

And so finally we come to the issue of justice. What the bullies did was wrong. It *was* wrong. There is a right and a wrong, no matter what the greedy and the powerful want you to think, and we all know it. It is wrong to hurt others intentionally, and any form of it is wrong. If you're brain has not been broken like a congo child forced to murder and rape at the point of a gun, or if you aren't one of the tiny percentage of truly sociopathic people, you know it to be wrong. We have courts, we have justice, to deal with people who do wrong. And for the big things, we hope this serves us.

For things like bullying, the actions are often not even illegal, and the assault may not be severe, regardless of the actual damage these things do. But what you have to do, is stand up for yourself. You can never let yourself be bullied again. This doesn't mean running upto the bully as soon as you saw him and headbutting him in the face. That would be offence, not defence. No, reserve justice for cases, where you are genuinely affronted, and there is no possible other way out. Then you must, you absolutely must, stand up for yourself with as much love and courage as you can muster.

Now you might be thinking that still you don't know what to do if you meet former bullies again. And it is true that I haven't given you specific instructions. The truth is, as Burn's said "the best laid plans of mice and men are want to go awry" or thereabouts. The point is, you shouldn't be thinking about what you are going to do if and when you see the bullies again, you should be focusing on yourself, on loving yourself, and then the right action will come naturally to you if it needs to. It's the fear now, and the hatred inside you now, that are a thousand times more pressing than anything else that bully in your mind or anybody else could ever do to you.

But if I were to guess, I'd say you will probably ignore them, as this is the best thing to do with people who haven't changed, unless they come out in sincere forgiveness.

And if you get physically attacked? Well, then you will either run away and get help if you can outrun them, or you will fight as viciously as an alleycat to stop them. You will stand up for yourself out of love, but only when it is entirely necessary. If you can ignore them, you will. If you cultivate love inside yourself, and forgive, and remove the hatred, I trust that you will take the right action if and when the time comes. Until that thing that may never happen, happens, you don't have to think about it. Live now.

Peace

Ashley

NOTE --

If you are in a situation where you cannot defend yourself and you are being abused, you absolutely must tell someone who can help you. Do not be ashamed. Do not stay in the situation. There are people who can help you, and they will. Even if the first person you approach dismisses you, do not give up, keep telling people until someone helps you, do not give up. If someone is doing something illegal to you, tell the police immediately. There is a way out of your situation and I know you can find it.

Become what you are

  

We are but mushrooms of the earth,
Fruit ephemeral to sporulate and spawn,
Finally we liquefy rejoined,
The source of life perpetually reborn

To grow, to grow, to become,
To take everything inside and put it out,
Deepest dreams from gentle hands encouraged,
Grow to grow and flower to flower forth

Nature wants you in action,
But don't feel forced; you want this too,
You *are* nature,
And nature loves your deepest dreams as much as you

Stand firm, believe,
Follow yourself without fear,
The path of life is only light,
Shine, become what you hold dear

We are but mushrooms of the earth,
Fruit ephemeral to sporulate and spawn,
Finally we liquefy rejoined,
The source of life perpetually reborn

--

P.S. The title for this poem, is also the title of a book by Alan Watts that has a mirror on the front of it. The idea for this poem, and perhaps even the title, didn't come from this book, but I can't deny it's possible influence. I feel like I owe it to Alan to mention the book here since I used the same title. I don't want to take from people searching for that book.

Is it really a blog and do I have to call it that?

I only write in this blog occasionally. I don't really know why.

A lot of the time I don't have good clarity of thought, and I don't think I am a particularly good writer unless I am embroiled with passion on a particular topic or am describing something technical.

The funny thing about this Drupal CMS software I am using, is that when one creates a post or a page, an option at the bottom of the post asks "Promote to front page?". So the Drupal software treats the "blog" and other content separately from the website proper and leaves the promotion decision up to me.

But in the end I just promote all the blog stuff to the front page, because otherwise people would have to go specifically to the blog subsection. I used to think that I might separate out those pages "worthy" of promotion to the front from those only deemed suitable for the peasant class in the "blog" section. Oh you foolish pages, live in the blog section there at the back, it's what you deserve!, only the creme may percolate to the top, to the king of the website, the pinnacle, the apex, the apogee, yes the front page. The blog post won't feel bad about being relegated to the back, but it forces me to think "hangon a sec, do I REALLY want this on the front page, do I really want to share my feelings with the rest of the world in this fashion?"

The thing is, its kind of a stupid deliberation to ponder over, but I worry. I worry that a prospective employer or someone I might otherwise want to impress, might have impressed upon them a rather different view of me, should they stumble upon my inconsequential ramblings.

But thinking about this, they are not really any less or any more inconsequential than anything else. I only say that my ramblings are inconsequential because part of me believes it is expected to say this. That I must self-deprecate my own feelings and words so that I'm not perceived as one who thinks too much of them.

But then why am I writing this? And for whom?

Some of the stuff I write for myself, like reminders, or just to vent. Other stuff, like technical tutorials or help, I do as part-reminder, part charity. I guess to some extent I feel I belong to the geek community more than I do to other communities, and I feel like I'm doing my bit in contributing to it. I see other people write technical stuff and it makes me want to write it too on some level.

It is so easy to over-analyze what is written, when I read it back to myself. It is too easy to imprison oneself with self-censorship under the guise of wanting to please others.

Of course the extreme reaction to this is then to then say "up yours" and say "I'm writing this for myself, not you". As a response, but then who is that directed at? I'm afraid it is me again. Trying to convince myself to write freely, when nobody in fact is restricting me in any manner. This is very bizarre. Not unexpected I suppose, given that the rest of the world does actually exist and I can't help but reflect upon its existence and those that will find this page and read it.

A lot of the time I don't bother to write anything, and leave this blog/website untouched for months. And a lot of the time the reason for this is that I don't want to write some useless bullshit. But then taking that approach, I've lost the whole point of it. The fact is, I WANT to write useless bullshit, because that is the point. I want to freely talk about whatever, not for the sake of others, but for the sake of myself. So again I seem to have castrated myself simply by the force of my own mind and how I perceive the world around me to be.

Odd indeed.

I'm wary of posting things without checking them throughly and trying to craft them into something I'm happy with. Now my mind is saying "yes like others, like others do too, you'd better mention that others also are wary of this". Why is it telling me this? Presumably because it thinks you'll otherwise think that I'm singling myself out as being the only one that is wary in this regard, and well, it wouldn't want you to believe that would it? My skittish mind in shackles again.

Now I have to tell you that I'm going to post this without editing it, I have to tell you this because my mind is looking at this in the manner it believes you will see it. And it is scared, scared that you'll read it and think it doesn't flow or isn't coherent. Heaven forbid it just let things be. My mind wants to control everything I guess, it wants to control not only what I write here, but also how you perceive it. So I'd better tell you that I haven't "tried my best", so you'll forgive me.

I know everyone does that, of course they do, when they write something, they write it with some intended effect in mind. But to be too concious of this, to be hyper-aware of this is a small torture, not a pleasure.

I want you, Ashley, to listen to me when I write this. I want you to free yourself from control. Can you do this?

How to sneak a knife through airport security

Here is how you sneak a knife through airport security:

Walk through without one and get one from a restaurant on the other side.

I know a guy whose child's cutlery was confiscated by security. It's bullshit isn't it? I guess this is what they call "security theatre".

Inconvenience people: of course. Inconvenience corporations: no way.

Man Flu

I had the flu last week. How do I know it was the flu and not a cold? Well I don't know for sure but fever came on extremely quickly and I was bedridden for 3 days with terrible chills and dehydration. It took a week of being zonked to dissappear, and I still look a little off-color.

Once upon a time I told a woman that I had flu and she exclaimed "What, man flu!" in a mocking and sexist manner implying that I only had a cold but was being a cry baby, and that men in general are in habit of doing this.

Well I wanted to get to the bottom of this man-flu nonsense, so I looked up a paper about the symptoms of cold and flu [1]. Here are some pertinent excerpts from the most cited journal paper on the matter:


The clinical expression of URTIs is variable and is partly influenced by the nature of the infecting virus but to a greater extent is modulated by the age, physiological state, and immunological experience of the host. Depending on these factors, URTIs may occur without symptoms, may kill, or most commonly will be associated with an acute self-limiting illness.


“Common cold” and “flu” are syndromes of familiar symptoms caused by viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. It is difficult to define the syndromes exactly because of great variation in the severity, duration, and types of symptom. Rhinoviruses account for 30–50% of all colds, and coronaviruses are the second most common agent, accounting for 10–15% of colds. Influenza viruses account for 5–15% of colds, and cold viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus are responsible for much flu-like illness, demonstrating that there is much overlap in aetiology and symptomatology of common cold and flu syndromes.

So you can shove your man flu up your arse! You haven't got a clue what virus I'm infected with. In practice neither do I, but I think I'm in a better position than you to judge my own symptoms relative to prior infections and hazard a guess.


The best predictors for influenza are cough and fever, since this combination of symptoms has been shown to have a positive predictive value of around 80% in differentiating influenza from a population suffering from flu-like symptoms.

Yes so I think I had flu and not a cold. So my man flu friend, it would appear you don't have telepathic medical abilities afterall and are in fact a sexist chump. The paper has some other interesting things to say:


Fever in response to infection is found in a wide range of animals and is believed to be beneficial as regards the host response to infection. Fever is usually associated with novel or severe viral infections, especially emerging viral infections where the virus is novel to the host, as in influenza epidemics and SARS. As discussed, fever is uncommon in adult cases of common cold, but is common in infant cases, presumably because the adult has been exposed to numerous common cold viruses and subsequent infections do not trigger a strong immune response, whereas the viruses are novel to the infant.

Hmm, so that thing I had last week was probably something I hadn't had before. And also, man flu freak, if your baby has a fever it might be "just" a cold. Bet you didn't expect that did you? Bet you didn't expect that not even the converse of you're stupid man flu attack can be considered true? lol OK finally, I like one of the conclusions:


The unpleasant symptoms of fever, malaise, and anorexia help to overcome infection and it is debatable whether elimination of these symptoms with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is beneficial. At present there is no evidence that symptomatic treatment of URTIs interferes with the course of the common cold or influenza but this is an area that is worthy of more research.

So perhaps the next time I catch a Rhinovirus, coronoavirus, Influenza virus, or similar, perhaps I won't bother taking any medicine and see how it works out.

[1] "Understanding the symptoms of the common cold and influenza" Ron Eccles, Lancet Infect Dis 2005;
5: 718–725 http://140.116.58.126:8080/%E5%85%92%E7%A7%91/Feb-27.pdf

sand and shells

send the monsters in
mutant fairytales
gaping mouths with silver teeth
trawling for souls

tear the place up
and spit out the bones
bury them
and hope the dogs don't find them

The Conker Deal

As autumn approaches, every young boy of Conker age, keeps a watchful eye on the growing fruits of his favourite horse chestnut trees. And it is common, especially among the eager, to prematurely harvest the crop before somebody else does.

Harvest usually takes place on a nice sunny autumn afternoon, blue skies and a cool fragrant breeze, nothing more. The harvest is affected by means of climbing, which turns blue jeans to green jeans, branch shaking, and surface-to-tree stick-throwing. The whole affair is almost religious in its dedication and annual recurrance.

The harvested conkers, split prematurely from their bright green spikey shells under foot on the nearby roads, are white in appearance, and take several days in the airing cupboard to reach the colour of their naturally ripened and de-shelled brethren. The roads around the scene are left littered with browned decaying half-shells, and a few dead conkers, the latter having been smashed into oblivion during the de-shelling through accidentally over forceful stamping. The victim trees are left battered, bearing an inevitable few missing branches, with giant fingered leaves leaves scattered everywhere.

It is during the harvest that our story begins. I remember one particular year, up near Toft Hill, a friend and and I happened upon a row of conker trees next to the busy Southam road. Being on the periphery of the village, these were unmolested by our rivals.

The trees were parallel to the road, squeezed between the pavement, some bushes, and an adjacent field which had horses in it. We were able to break through the bushes and into the secluded haven nestled safely under the bows of the trees.

These particular conkers, were odd, in that some of them had smooth shells that took on a colour that was more olive than the bright green of their pointed neighbors. Nethertheless, these trees had some real monsters on them. Shells that were bigger than our fists!

The thing with giant conker shells, is that they typically turn out to have multiple conker seeds inside. Doubles perhaps being the most common, followed by triples, singles, and sometimes even quads. More conkers per shell however, usually results in smaller conker seeds. So the desire when a monster shell is spotted, is that it contains only one or two monster seeds, and when this rings true, a boy can know no comparable pleasure.



Image Copyright: Andrew Dunn

Anyway, to get back to the point of the story. My friend Richard and I spent the Saturday afternoon collecting conkers from the grove, and we amassed a bucket full at least. For some reason we got the idea that we had collected 500 conkers, although we never counted them.

Richard, being the enterprising type, came up with the idea that we should try and sell the conkers at our middle school on the coming Monday, and I agreed. It was clear that we had far more conkers than we could possibly use ourselves. Richard decided that for 500 conkers, a fair price would be £5, a penny per conker. £5 was a lot to me, my weekly pocket money at the time being 40p. The sale would net us each £2.50, more than 6 weeks of pocket money!

When Monday came, I packed the conkers into a blue rucksack, struggled to zip up its bulging contents, and headed off to school in good spirits.

Richard was quick off the mark and as morning break came around he went straight over to his buyer. A farmer type guy known as Brandle. It was apparent that he already had Brandle in mind, and I could tell from his approach that he was able to play this guy like a true salesman.

Richard worked his magic, and after a few minutes, had Brandle willing to hand over £5 for the "500" conkers. Brandle looked excited, and clearly considered it a great deal. At this point the morning break ended and we went back inside.

During the interim work period, before lunch break, in a feat of salesmanship as conniving as it was brilliant, Richard came up with a scheme to double the profits.

I was to approach Brandle and make the claim that Richard himself, having been the broker for the deal, had decided that in fact he wanted the conkers for himself, and was willing to offer me £7. For now it seemed I had become the "owner" of the conkers.

I warned Richard that this might be pushing it too far, that we should be grateful for £5, and I tried to talk him out of it. But he was my best friend at the time, and so eventually I agreed to it.

So, when lunchbreak arrived, I approached Brandle before he went outside, and set about explaining the situation. I explained as best I could how Richard, having had a close look at the Conkers, was now interested in them himself, and I told Brandle that if he really wanted them, he would have to pay £10. Richard was watching eagerly over my shoulder all the while.

At first Brandle seemed to respond positively to the proposal, but then Richard started playing up the role of "interested buyer" a bit too enthusiastically, and ultimately perverted it by symultaneously giving the hard sell in encouraging Brandle to take the deal. And so, as quickly as the original deal had been setup, and as quickly as it had instilled me with the warm belief that I'd soon be the owner of a nice £2.50, the deal toppled and crashed upon the floor. It was wrecked. Brandle had backed out of the deal, having been pushed to the point where his senses came back, and the allure of "500" shiny conkers was lost.

Dispondently, I furrowed my brow and started thinking. After a couple of seconds and an idea flashed into my head. There was only one thing for it. I knew exactly what to do. Excitedly, I took my rucksack and rushed over to the bottom playground. It was already populated, since we had spent several minutes presiding over the deal inside.

I went to the top of the steps which overlooked the playground, unzipped the bag and shouted, as loud and protracted as I could:

"S..C..R..A..M..B..L..E!"

whilst tipping the conkers out of the bag. As they bounced noisily down the steps and onto the grey asphalt, children were already running over, having heard the celebrated and familiar call of scramble and were rushing to collect as many conkers as possible.

"Ashley!" came a commanding shout from behind me "What the hell are you doing! Pick those up at once!" bellowed the on-duty teacher. Sheepishly I said "OK" and felt a little bit worried, but as I looked up my worries evaporated, a smile cracked across my face. There was no longer any need. The conkers were already gone!

The news

I never watch or read the news unless someone brings it to my attention. I think that it is all bullshit. I can't stand the lies they print and the bias they impart to everything.

Consider the daily mail nazi hate brigade. They seem to confuse human rights with crime and punishment. Bizzarrely these people seem to want us all to have less rights under the argument that criminals should be punished more. WTF is that all about? If they want criminals to be punished more, they should campaign about exactly that and that only. For fuck's sake don't jeopardise our hard won human rights in the process. Why should I be punished, and have MY human rights taken away?

The daily mailers also seem to confuse understanding the cause of crimes with the notion of excusing crimes. When it is said that the reason someone committed a crime is because they came from a shit family, this does not mean they should be excused from the crime. They should not, they should be punished all the same. The reason for understanding the why, is so that we can try and treat the cause and not the symptoms.

I've always been suspicious of the claim "oh we need harder discipline", as if is clear that it works, because I don't think it does. I once knew someone who used to get beaten by his dad, and he was the worst behaved person I knew. A large fraction of the bullied go on to bully. A large fraction of the abused go onto abuse. If discipline implies control and subjugation, then I think it will make things worse.

I was never beaten and never subjected to extreme discipline as a child, and guess what, I haven't turned into a serial killer so I don't think it logically follows that the absence of extreme discipline results in pathological criminality. In fact, I believe it is precisely the opposite.

It is no accident that the violent scumbags more often come from shit areas and shit families. It is no accident that the violent scumbags are more often poor than not. This isn't my prejudice speaking, just take a look at the actual statistics regarding the incarcerated.

So there is a cause, or a bias at least, that tends to turn the badly treated into the badly behaved. And the people with nothing, into the people with nothing to lose.

And yet I was careful above to use the term "violent scumbags", as it is not just the poor and the badly treated who commit crimes, far from it, the poor just tend to dominate in the violent inter-personal crime demographic.

Looking elsewhere, the papers that print the lies, the politicians who play the system, and the big businesses who exploit others en masse, are all equally culpable. But what is the "excuse" for this behavior?

Looking at the bigger picture, there has never, as far as my limited knowledge of history goes, been a society which lived in total peace with itself and other societies, which didn't have a class structure, which didn't persecute or segregate. And there was never a golden age in the recent history of our country where things were significantly better than they are now. So all the nostalgic pining for the good old days is a load of bullshit.

On the flip side, society has in general improved in its morality. Persecution and biggotry were much wider spread in the past and society was more violent. For example, in 16th century Paris, cat burning was considered entertainment. And the word "medieval" didn't obtain its double meaning by accident.

Along these lines, here is a short article about how violence has gone down, from a decent, or at least more intelligent, news source:

http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articles/media/2007_03_19_New%20Republic.pdf

Loughborough

As part of my EngD I have to do 100 credits of taught units. I didn't read the conditions when I signed up for the thing, as if I had really realized what the taught units had entailed, I probably would have done a straight PhD instead. Doing modules is a killer. After my MSc I had had enough of taught components. And with the MSc I actually wanted to learn the stuff. All the EngD stuff has been crap.


Well anyway, I had to do some core stuff which was mandated and then I have to make up the rest of the credits by taking "specialist modules". I luckily only have one module remaining, which I am taking now at loughborough. This module is called "Internet Programming." I know, it should be a breeze. Good. I need to get this stuff out the way so I can get back to my research and my THESIS <gulp> <mild panic attack>.

Well I've just arrived in Loughborough and here is the place I am staying:

 

Sink but no fucking ensuite:

Typical stupid university signs:

You may wonder why I'm taking a picture of the toilet. Well because it's shit, excuse the pun:

Alright it is shared, but it looks clean, and I'm not a squeamish princess. But the thing is, what you can't tell is that one can barely fit into the fucking cubical without rubbing all over the toilet to get into the room. Here is ths shared shower:

Christ. OK none of this is terribly bad, but I want to moan. It's not exactly 5 star. Shared fucking toilet and shower, its like being a student again, oh wait...


You know this makes me want to rant about greed and property in general.


If I ruled a country, I would mandate certain restrictions on living space, such that everyone would have a detached property with lots of room. This implies birth control of course, since we don't have infinite space.  The system would be based around a one or maybe two child policy once the population hit some target value. Extra child permits would be able via a lottery system each year depending on the death and birthrate the previous year, so that the population would stay roughly constant overall.

It's kind of impossible isn't it however, to enforce something like that? People want the freedom to pump out children like mad, because evolution has given them such desires. It would require social responsibility in the country, it would require people to think, yeah it would be nice to have more children but the country will suffer if we all keep pumping them out. I don't think humans have that kind of social skill.

Because you know, population is really at the heart of many of our problems. It is certainly the biggest thing in the energy debate. Imagine how much easier the energy problem would be, if we needed 100 or even 200 times less energy than we do now. But talk of reducing the population 100-fold, well that's madness, impossible. It is too late.

The whole energy problem is not popular news in anycase. The energy problem is the biggest challenge human civilisation has probably ever faced, and the threat is imminent, we're talking about the next 20 years or so. Yet the goverments are not taking it seriously, do they know something I don't? Well never mind, I'm sure things will sort themselves out.

Exercise is a waste of time

It may be considered slightly heretical of me to say so, given the media hype and government drives surrounding exercise promotion, but I am of the belief that exercise is a waste of time.

It really is. The only reason that artificial exercise is a necessity, is because our bodies have evolved under the pressure of exercise being a requisite survival skill. This means that there was never a selection pressure to optimize the body for situations in which exercise wasn't the norm, and therefore not surprisingly the body goes wrong in absence of exercise. If you don't exercise your body enough, it is the evolutionary equivalent of putting a niche species into a different environment in which it is less successful. It's no surprise then that all kinds of problems ensue.

I wish the damned thing was just maintain itself. The evolution of a self-maintaining body may have arisen if we had of had lifestyles that required an equal measure of long periods of intense activity followed by long periods of non-activity. Then selection pressure might have favoured those whose bodies maintained themselves better during the inactive periods, especially so if there happened to be some fatal danger present in the active periods which would require a high level of physical fitness to endure. Alas this didn't happen, hence our bodies have not really evolved to cope with long periods of inactivity.

Obesity, heart disorder, diabetes, depression, and lethargy, among others, can all be caused by a lack of exercise. So to borrow an expression from Chistopher Hitchins, for the sake of any biblical fanatics reading, Some Design!

Every benefit of exercise: the endorphins, getting fresh air, being outside, etc, are all simply norms that the body actually expects. This is the environment in which the majority of our evolution was accomplished. If you want to feel normal, do a lot of exercise.

So whilst it may be a bullshit that we have to do it, the upside is it will make you feel better than if you don't do it. I don't want to be overly negative about it, there isn't enough time in life for that kind of thinking.

Speaking of thinking, I think that future robotic humanoids will not have our body problems. You know, sometimes I wonder to myself that the body might be better equipped if it had a better GUI:


A GUI for the body.

Except of course it wouldn't look as shit. I think the following features would be useful:

  • Something like a sleep or dream mode and autopilot function so I can do something else while the body is running around doing my bidding. Like if I had to run from A to B I could set it on auto and then get it to play a movie in my head or do calculus or whatever.
  • The speed would be controllable, also the system would offer more precise control over power and torque. Everything would be in standard units and have multiple choices so when doing up a nut I could actually get the right torque without a wrench. Builtin weighing ability when picking things up would also be cool.
  • Indicators for heart rate and remaining power. Actually I'd have a couple of meters showing short term power and long term power. Also control of the adrenal glands would be useful.
  • Full control over pain, endorphins, etc. So I can feel whatever I want. But meters to indicate how much of different neurotransmitters are remaining, and at what rate they are being replenished etc. Control over how the body invests its energy in its myriad repair and synthesis functions.
  • Some kind of builtin scripting language would be useful so I could have event driven actions, like wake me up out of dream mode if something crazy happens. Also the scripting language could have macros so if you have to do some stupid repetitive task, then you can program yourself to do it automatically, and then do something else meanwhile (I guess to some extent this actually works in the extant system, like ironing in front of the TV).

Well, I'm sure you can think of better and more interesting ways the body could be augmented with useful features. Note that I'd want these evolved into the brain de-facto, not some cheap addons from Intel or whatever.

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