Saturday, February 25, 2012

Can Rudd change? History says he's done it before

Today one of the most live questions in Australia is the question of whether Kevin Rudd is capable of being a better PM than he was during his very eventful first term (in which he spared Australia's economy from the GFC), which was cut short in mid 2010 by "the coup". Can Rudd change? Has the bruising experience of being sacked at short notice given Rudd cause for reflection and transformation? I've read one commentator who seems to actually have a clue about political history (unlike myself) who claimed that in general party leaders do a better job second time around. I can't offer any opinion on this point, or on the question of whether Rudd has changed for the better since 2010 (clearly his appearance has changed and he's looking considerably older). On one point though, there is plenty of evidence which I'd like to point out. Is Rudd capable of major personal change? I'd argue that he has already undergone a striking self-created transformation in his transition from bureaucrat to politician, but it is debatable whether this was a deep or a superficial change.

As David Marr (has he been reading my ex-published piece about Rudd?) recently pointed out on ABCTV, Rudd had to undertake a major transformation in order to become a successful politician. Some people are born politicians, but it appears that Rudd is not one of these people. Perhaps this is the wellspring of his appeal with the Australian people. Rudd was a spectacularly successful politician in 2007, but don't forget that he was once an electoral loser. If there is a formula for "Politics for Dummies" Rudd surely discovered it, smart and persistent as he is, and perhaps following this winning formula with discipline is a more effective method of winning elections than a less conscious and planned approach.

Rudd's first attempt at politics was unsuccessful. In 1996 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the seat of Griffith in Queensland. It is an almost constant theme in the body of literature about successful role models in business and other fields that very successful people have failure in their past, and they bounce back and also learn from their failure or failures, and that learning is possibly of crucial importance. In 1998 Rudd managed to win the seat of Griffith, and it has been the base of his political career ever since. These days Rudd is famous for being a brilliant campaigner, a fact that even his most powerful political rivals will acknowledge. He has come a long way indeed. Some time between 1996 and 1998 a dramatic self-initiated metamorphosis evidently happened. The best place that I know to find information about this is the book Inside Kevin 07 by Christine Jackman. This is a book completely lacking in objectivity, as Jackman was a friend of the Rudd's when it was written (and could still be for all I know), but the advantage to this is that it gives a much more intimate account of the personalities involved with Rudd's 2007 electoral triumph, and Jackman was able to source a lot of information about the time before Rudd was a politician, from people who were there at the time. Rudd's former boss ex-premier of Queensland Wayne Goss and Rudd's brother lobbyist Greg Rudd both described Kevin's metamorphosis in the book. He lost a lot of his illusions and naivety about what it takes to succeed in politics, and most importantly, he got out among the people at every opportunity, a crash course in personal charm and dealing with humans. It worked!

It is one thing to read this in a book, but a picture tells a thousand words, they say. I knew if this personal transformation was really as dramatic as they say in the book, there should be a considerable difference between Rudd's appearance before and after. We've all seen the "after" shots of Rudd in unavoidable media saturation, but the "before" shots are not often shown in media stories and are surprisingly hard to find on the internet. I'm sorry that I can't offer any link to a photo or video of Rudd before 1998. There was once one blurry amateur shot of Rudd on one of the photo-sharing websites (could have been Flickr) of a young Rudd campaigning in 1996, but it appears that it has been withdrawn from publication. It was amazing. It was like a different person. The iconic smile was absent. Rudd stood with a hunched posture looking like he had not a single shred of confidence. A woman looking like that would attract labels such as "wallflower" or "shrinking violet". I know, I've been there, done that! In my opinion this photo casts into doubt the unfortunately popular idea that Rudd has some kind of personality disorder associated with inflated self-image, such as narcississtic PD. It is my understanding that such disorders are inborn, but it appears that there was once a time in his adult years when Rudd manifested as quite a different personality.

I'm so sorry that I can't find anything like that shot to show you first hand, because seeing is believing. I know that Rudd is capable of change, and you can check the evidence yourself in the book. Rudd has changed dramatically in the past, by learning in response to failure. This is a hallmark of very high achievers. Whether or not he has tired of changing to meet the demands of others, or has the basic resources or the inclination to again meet the needs of the top job in our nation while also leading a high-powered team, are questions that I can only guess at.

Inside Kevin 07
Jackman, Christine,%20Christine

Australia - a nation divided along gender lines

You don't need to own a hijab to belong to a gender-segregated society!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lili Marlene's list of novel words assocated with Kevin Rudd and his exciting adventures



programmatic specificity






Boganville (believed to be Rudd and Rein's name for The Lodge after Gillard and partner took up residence)






Lili's thought for the day

So Kevin Rudd has been going around calling Gillard a f***ing b**ch behind her back. Haven't we all?

Schoolkiddies self-organizing by gender again in 2012 - it's getting worse

(this post added to a few hours after publication)

I'm still puzzled and somewhat concerned about a phenomenon which I first noticed last year, in which I have noticed young primary school students at a public school self-organizing into separate-sex groups, and my puzzlement continues into this year. Last year, during that boring moment of the day when parents stand around in the hot sun outside of classrooms waiting for the kids to come out of class, I noticed that the kids' schoolbags had been placed in a mostly sex-segregated order on the bag hooks at either side of the classroom door. It now occurs to me that the arrangement of the hooks in two separate and equal groupings perhaps prompted the kids to think of themselves in terms of a binary concept, and the binary concept that would probably come to the minds of innocent young children is gender (God forbid that they should ever start sorting themselves into religious or racial groups). But there is of course no compulsion for these young students to self-organize their bags in any way, so this spontaneous sex segregation triggered my curiosity. I asked one student why this was consistently happening, and I was told it was the girls responding to a perceived problem with some boys interfering with other students' bags.

Some time later I was helping to supervise children in this class and others of the same year at school excursions, and again I noticed a consistent pattern of most of the kids grouping their gear into separate gender groups. Again I was puzzled, because there wasn't any obvious conflict or negative attitudes about gender among the kids. I reflected awhile on the subjects of sex segregation, unnecessarily gendered marketing and imposed gender stereotyping in Australian society, influenced by reading that included feminist and scientific critiques of ideas about sex and brain development that have attained some scientific credibility in the last ten years or so. The autism expert Professor Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge in the UK is one of the most prominent advocates of the idea that gendered behaviour and autism are both the result of developmental differences in the brain mediated by the hormone testosterone. In the last year I have discovered many problems with BAron-Cohen's research and his writing, and I have written blog posts about these issues. It was a bit of a worry to me that many examples of sex segregation and legitimized sex stereotyping in contemporary Australian society could be noticed in my everyday life and in my community, and many of them are not hangovers of "the olden days", but are institutions or products created within the last ten years or so. I wrote a couple of blog posts on this subject.

Today in my position as the parent of a schoolkid I walked into a classroom and for the first time realized that the school desks were organized into two large groups, one group composed entirely of one sex, the other group of students all the other sex with two exceptions. This class is the same age cohort as the students I wrote about last year, but not exactly the same class. Again, I had to wonder whether the binary nature of the arrangement of the desks had prompted this order, or was it imposed by the teacher, or was this way of thinking something deeper and broader than the influences from within this school? I asked the teacher about this, and was told that it was the kids who had chosen their own places at the desks. Some boys liked to keep away from the girls, but some of the other kids enjoyed mixing with other-gender friends during free play, I was told, by a teacher who seemed to be as puzzled as I was. So what's going on with the children? I'm of the opinion that gender stereotyping, including self-gender stereotyping, is one of those nasty cultural influences that parents of today need to be aware of and concerned about, just like the sexualization of little girls in marketing and the advertising of processed foods and fast foods during children's TV shows. Will the future workplaces of these students be as sex-segregated as their classrooms are today?

Lili's thought for the day

What the heck does that Therese Rein think she's up to, trying to get the general public, the voters, the man in the street, involved with a political leadership spill? There is no place for the voters in politics (well, except on election day).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Interview with a famous synaesthete from long, long, ago

What language do you think in?

I don't think in any language. I think in images. I don't
believe that people think in languages. They don't move their
lips when they think. It is only a certain type of illiterate
person who moves his lips as he reads or ruminates......

This is an excerpt from:

Nabokov's interview. (02) BBC Television [1962]

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lili's thought for the day

It's been a long time since I've read or heard K. Rudd described as the "Ruddbot". Has he changed, or is it just the case that perceptions have changed?

Monday, February 20, 2012

What can we conclude about the genuineness of Daniel Tammet's synaesthesia based on the 2007 fMRI study? - some papers of interest

Bor, D, Billington, J, Baron-Cohen, S. (2007) Savant memory for digits in a case of synaesthesia and Asperger syndrome is related to hyperactivity in the lateral prefrontal cortex. Neurocase. 2007 Oct;13(5):311-9.
[Unfortunately this revealing paper remains behind a paywall. Daniel Tammet is definitely the subject of this study, named “DT” in this paper. On page 314 in the text are listed visual brain regions of interest which were studied in a ROI analysis comparing Tammet with non-synaesthete controls. Region V4/8, left and right cuneus, calcarine sulcus, fusiform gyrus and lingual gyrus are listed. Table 1 lists “Areas of significantly greater activation for DT compared with controls for the contrast: encoding minus delay”. All of the brain areas listed here are in the frontal lobes, except for the “Subcortical Cerebellum”. None of the visual ROIs listed on page 314 are found in this table.]

Rouw, Romke, Scholte, H. Steven and Colizoli, Olympia (2011) Brain areas involved in synaesthesia: A review. Journal of Neuropsychology. (2011), 5, 214–242.

Neufeld J, Sinke C, Dillo W, Emrich HM, Szycik GR, Dima D, Bleich S, Zedler M. (2012) The neural correlates of coloured music: A functional MRI investigation of auditory-visual synaesthesia. Neuropsychologia. Volume 50, Issue 1, Pages 1-204 (January 2012).
[Behind paywall. Includes discussion of the various parts of the brain involved with vision that have been found to have been associated with synaesthesia, in an exploration of a finding of no significant group-differences detected in area V4 in this fMRI study of auditory-visual synaesthetes and controls reporting no synaesthesia. The role of the left inferior parietal cortex (IPC) as a sensory nexus involved with synaesthesia is discussed. It appears that this area is pretty much the same as the inferior parietal lobule and Brodmann areas 39 and 40, but I’m certainly no brain anatomist. The IPC was apparently not studied in the fMRI study of Tammet, who reported having an elaborated type of grapheme-colour synaesthesia. One needs to keep in mind that although it appears that the IPC is involved in a number of types of synaesthesia, this study is of coloured music synaesthesia and the exact pattern of activation found in this study is probably different to the situation in other types of synaesthesia.]

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Researching way to banish synaesthesia as a treatment for autistic hypersensitivity - double bad!

The scary bit is in the last three paragraphs:

Dayton, Lily (2012) The blended senses of synesthesia. Los Angeles Times. February 20th 2012.,0,6760571.story

Some quotes from the article:

"No one is trying to cure synesthesia — ..."


"I think that what they're experiencing is a form of synesthesia where instead of some sense connecting to their color area, it's connecting to an area involving pain or aversion or nausea," Eagleman says. "If that's true, what we're doing in synesthesia will give us an actual molecular target for helping that."

Oh, so they are trying to cure synaesthesia, but only synaesthesia in people who don't identify as synaesthetes. No problem!

It has been years since the Eagleman Lab at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston started researching the genetics of synesthesia. As I have observed a number of years ago at this blog, there can be only one reason why any research team would be so keen to identify the genetics of some variation or condition - eugenics or a "treatment" or a "cure" for something. This story merely confirms something that has been beyond doubt for a long time. It is no coincidence that the Baylor College of Medicine is the same research institution that was at the centre of a controversy in 2006 about a supposed prenatal test for autism:

Lili's thought for the day

Please make the witch go away, Kevin!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lili's thought of the day

Every person that you meet in your daily life, every client at work, every person you meet at a party, each of your friends, acquaintances and colleagues, your kids, your Mum, is potentially a published writer, an autobiographer, an amateur journalist, a whistleblower, a blogger. We live in dangerous times!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Autism and face processing - abnormal or just variant?

If there are definite and orderly cultural differences in human face processing, then why have so many autism researchers felt confident in asserting that face processing characteristics that they claim are associated with autism are pathological, rather than merely differences or variations? Just another employment of the idea that anything associated with autism must by definition be pathological and inferior and maladaptive? Sounds like prejudice to me!

A quote from the conclusion of an abstract of one study of face perception:

"These results demonstrate that face processing can no longer be considered as arising from a universal series of perceptual events. The strategy employed to extract visual information from faces differs across cultures."

Caroline Blais, Rachael E. Jack, Christoph Scheepers, Daniel Fiset and Roberto Caldara (2008) Culture Shapes How We Look at Faces.PLoS ONE. 2008; 3(8): e3022. Published online 2008 August 20. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003022

Tan CBY, Stephen ID, Whitehead R, Sheppard E (2012) You Look Familiar: How Malaysian Chinese Recognize Faces. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29714. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029714

Lili's thought for the day

I wonder what is behind all the interest in Reg Mombassa? For sure, he is an interesting individual, but so are most of the famous people that I've written about.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lili's thought for the day

She claims to have special powers of healing by touch. Oh strange old world, that has such people in it!

New study of vitamin D and school-age language difficulties

Could the so-called autism epidemic be partly explained as an upswing of misdiagnosed developmental language impairment resulting from an increase in vitamin D deficiency, at least in Australia?

Language skills linked to mother's time in sun
by Melissa Davey
Sydney Morning Herald
February 16, 2012.

Maternal Serum Vitamin D Levels During Pregnancy and Offspring Neurocognitive Development.
Andrew J. O. Whitehouse, PhD, Barbara J. Holt, BSc, Michael Serralha, BSc(Hons), Patrick G. Holt, DSc, Merci M. H. Kusel, MBBS, and Prue H. Hart, PhD
Published online February 13, 2012. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-2644)

New research links poor language to lack of Vitamin D in womb.
Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
14 February, 2012

I'd like to add that the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research should be commended for investigating the important issue of the re-emergence of vitamin D deficiency as a public health issue in Australia, in the face of vocal and entrenched opposition from groups who have advocated extreme sun protection with the aim of preventing skin cancer, and the general resitance to new ideas in the Australian medical profession. This institute, based in Western Australia, does a lot of research on autism and related conditions, and I anticipate the results of their studies with interest.

Monday, February 13, 2012

ABC radio show guides listeners to deceptive info, at respected medical journal

Below is a link to yesterday's radio story at the ABC Radio National's The World Today, about Prof Ian Hickie, conflicts between Australian mental health professinals re the federal govt mental health reforms, and conflict over Hickie's journal paper in The Lancet about the new anti-depressant drug Agomelatine, produced by Servier:

Psychiatrist claims campaign to discredit him. The World Today. ABC Radio National February 13th 2012.

"ABC takes no responsibility for the sites these links take you to."

The problematic abstract at The Lancet linked to from The World Today:

The revealing comment to The Conversation about the discrepancy between the abstract and the main body of the journal paper, by respected psychiatric epidemiologist and lecturer Melissa Raven:

This wouldn't be the first time that our publicly-funded ABC guided the public towards having a positive view of a questionable drug advocated by the controversial Prof Hickie. Just take a look at this almost promotional story on the ABC's popular science TV series Catalyst about sleep deprivation in teens and issues thought to be caused by it, including depression, and new treatments.

Staying Up Late. 21 July 2011 Catalyst. ABCTV

"Melatonin and the melatonin-based drugs are the closest things we have to inducing normal sleep." - Prof Ian Hickie on Catalyst

Did he mention that abnormalities of liver function have been found to be common during treatment by one melatonin-based drug? Don't think he did.

And what do you know? The new drug Agomelatine is a melatonin-based drug, and the company that sells it, Servier, has supported research done by Prof. Hickie.

There are plenty of opportunities to access Prof. Hickie's advice thru the Catalyst website:

The people at Catalyst seem to be happy enough to help promote the idea that Australians have become a sleep-deprived nation, due to increasing personal use of new technologies and the fast pace of mofern life, but is it true? Apparently not:

Myths about sleep. Health Report. ABC Radio National. Broadcast:
Monday 6 February 2012.

"We were really looking at the average sleep population and what we found out is that in fact contrary to our hypothesis and contrary to most people’s views the Australian population on average is sleeping as much if not a tiny bit more in the mid 2000s than they were in the early ‘90s."

When is Catalyst going to do a special about the current profesional war over the federal govt's mental health reforms, the issue of conflicting interests re psychiatry researchers and drug companies, and changing definitions of mental illness and mental health? When is Catalyst going to interview people like Prof
Jon Jureidini, Dr Allen Frances and Dr Melissa Raven? Probably never.

I recommend the website Speed Up & Sit Still by Martin Whitely as a great place to get all the details about the ongoing controversy involving Prof Hickie and The Lancet:

See also this newspaper article

Dunlevy, Sue
'Campaign' targets depression guru Ian Hickie.
The Australian.

February 13th 2012.

As is the usual thing, the latest fad in autism therapies has frightening features

Yong, Ed (2012) Dark side of the love hormone. New Scientist. February 8th 2012 Issue 2851 p.39-41.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

This should be interesting...

Autism and the immune system
Health Report
ABC Radio National 810am
Broadcast: Monday 13 February 2012

That would have been an interesting read

Till today I didn't know that Christopher Hitchens had planned to write on the subject of George Orwell and Asperger syndrome. Of course, he wouldn't have been the first to do so.

Fitzgerald, Michael (2006) Autism, Asperger’s syndrome and creativity. Autism2006: AWARES Conference Centre. October 4th 2006.
[George Orwell and many other famous people discussed]

Fitzgerald, Michael (2005) The genesis of artistic creativity: Asperger’s syndrome and the arts. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
[George Orwell and many other famous people discussed]

McGrath, Charles (2011) A voice, still vibrant, reflects on mortality. New York Times. October 9th 2011.
[It is revealed that the late writer Christopher Hitchens planned to write on the subject of George Orwell and Asperger syndrome in a revision of his 2002 book Why Orwell matters.]

Percy, Tony (2005) Orwell's Clock - What Made Orwell Tick?
[Website writer Percy claims to have beat Fitzgerald and Hitchens in identifying Orwell as a case of AS.]

Just stumbled upon videos about Jason Padgett, now have questions

I can see how Jason Padgett's drawings might be the display of some previously unknown type of savantism, but how does this make him any type of synaesthete? And how are his drawings "fractals"? And how is the number Pi a fractal? Is there a mathematician out there who can help?

I'm still looking into Mr Padgett and his drawings, but here's a funny thing that I've noticed - try Googling "Paul Laffoley art" for images, and look a the similarity in style between the art of Padgett and Laffoley. What's going on there???? Something strange I'd say. There's also a resemblance to art associated with religion and mystical stuff from Asian cultures. A basic knowledge of the background of Paul Laffoley tells me that this is the realm of unusual thinking. I researched Laffoley because he is included in my list of famous people thought to be autistic (see link above).

Another one for my famous synaesthetes list!

Many thanks to the interesting individual who comments at my blog under the name "The Author". His Blogger profile is not publicly available, so perhaps it would not be appropriate to divulge who he is and which blog he writes. It could well be one that I link to. Anyhow, many thanks for letting me know that the famous writer Virginia Woolf has been identified as a synaesthete. The well-known synesthesia researcher Dr Richard Cytowic has written an article published yesterday at Seed magazine about Woolf in which he identified Woolf as bipolar, a synaesthete and also having had other interesting characteristics of the functioning of the mind. I still haven't read the entire article.

I hope this snippet of information wont give my readers the false impression that synaesthesia is linked to mental illness. Synaesthesia is actually a quite common trait, one type, number form synaesthesia, being more common than lefthandedness, so we would expect that there would be some people who have both a mental illness and synaesthesia, due to chance coincidence, just as we'd expect to find plenty of lefthanders with a mental illness, as both traits are relatively common.

Cytowic, Richard E. (2012) Virginia Woolf’s mental illness may have ultimately defined her craft.... Seed. SEEDMAGAZINE.COM February 12, 2012.
["Originally published February 2, 2010" "This essay is based on research and an article available at Cytowic’s site"]

Lili's thought for the day

If everyone else had exactly the same type of personification synaesthesia that I have, I could use the letter "E" as an emoticon. You know what I mean? No?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Daniel Tammet - I've written heaps about him

Daniel Tammet - The Boy with the Incredible Story

Does Daniel Tammet, identified as a synaesthete and diagnosed with AS by Prof Baron-Cohen, really have impaired face perception and synaesthesia?

Eight quotes about the famous Daniel Tammet (born Daniel Corney) and face memory

Don’t believe everything you read in a book: an incomplete list of books that are about, are by or mention Daniel Tammet, in chronological order

A contamination of the literature: an incomplete list of science, medicine, academia or education-related items about or mentioning Daniel Tammet (born Daniel Corney 1979) in chronological order, followed by a separate list of other key documents

Neuropsychology case study subject as celebrity: Jill Price and Daniel Tammet compared

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Segregation by sex a policy of the Australian federal government?

If a government department was treating it's clients differently according to gender, for no good nor compelling reason, without their knowledge or consent, would that be a bad thing?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Genes for being more responsive to one's social environment not all positive effects?

There's a most interesting article in the second-last New Scientist issue about genes that can apparently affect the social development of kids. ADHD and "highly sensitive persons" are some conditions referred to in this article.

Orchid children: How bad-news genes came good.
01 February 2012 by David Dobbs
New Scientist.
Magazine issue 2849. p.42-45.

But what does it mean?

As a grapheme to colour synaesthete, I have no idea how this visual image from 2009 published in New Scientist might relate to the number Pi. Might it make any sense as a mnemonic image? Might it just be a bit of nonsense?

Savant art: a window into exceptional minds. New Scientist. June 3rd 2009.
[a gallery of pictures of savant art with a work by Tammet at the beginning, which is supposed to be a representation of Tammet’s synaesthesia mental visualization of the number Pi.]