Friday, August 31, 2012

Lili's thought for the day

Atos are sponsors of the 2012 Paralympic Games? Makes sense to me. Disabled people have the right to win medals and be inspirational. 

And that's all. 

Lili's inspiring thought for the day

I'm an inspirational success story. Truly! No, I didn't lose 50 kilograms in a month. I did throughout my life exercise  enough self-control to prevent my weight blowing out beyond overweight to obese. Isn't that even MORE amazing than resolving to stop stuffing my face like there's no tomorrow?

Lili's thought for the day

What is more fun - giving birth or doing a tax return? 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

MONA to host exclusive weekend-long synaesthesia event's-on/events

Goodness me, it going to be quite a musical production in the controversial Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, that island hanging off the bottom of Australia (it's a part of Australia I believe). The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra will be there, playing works of the synaesthete composers Messiaen and Ligeti, and also something by Mussorgsky (was he a synaesthete?) Kate Miller-Heidke and many other talents will be there too. Sounds interesting. Why does nothing remotely like this ever, ever happen in the state where I live? I'll bet if I went along to my local big marble and stone art museum and and asked a guide some question about synaesthesia and the arts, the response would be "Huh?"

I don't have a spare $605 and a plane ticket to Tassie. Nothing like it. I guess I could just stay home and experience some cheap and natural synaesthesia by playing some rock music nice and loud. I guess that would also be an exclusive synesthesia experience.

I shouldn't be too envious, because a few years ago I saw an artsy musical-visual event that had stacks of synaesthesia in it, at a bargain price, in my home city. It was Ed Kuepper's MFLL. The MFLL stands for Music For Len Lye. At the time I had no idea that Len Lye's pioneering animation films were synesthetic synchronization between vision and music. I just went along to see Ed Kuepper, and to show my kids what a legendary rock guitarist looks and sounds like. The drummer was pretty amazing too. I think he might have been Jeffrey WegenerThere was more to the evening than the MFLL, there was a number of experimental films, which the famous guitarist and drummer played along to live, next to the screen. There was explosive drumming to go with violent explosions of light on the screen (I think that film might have been Pangaea), and also a very weird bit of psychedelic cinema. I've never seen anything like it before or since. I couldn't believe how small the audience was. You put on a show that is different and interesting with great music that doesn't have any singing in it, and the folks won't go. That's the way things are in this town.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lili's queasy thought for the day

I'm suffering from a terrible case of Ann Romney-induced nausea. 

Lili's uncensored thought for the day

When comments about a press article published on the internet aren't complimentary about the article, the journalist who wrote it or the people featured in it or the work featured in it, the solution is simple; delete the entire comments section. If you don't wish to go that far, there is always the option of closing comments, very promptly. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Men are such animals!

As ever, the marketing of pointless gifts for Father's Day and Mother's Day are festivals of gender stereotyping, and often quite negative stereotypes.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Australia's journey back in time continues....

The new Sydney Anglican marriage vows will apparently require the bride to vow to "submit" to her husband, but do not I see or hear any mention of a reciprocal vow. That sounds like sexism to me, the sexes treated as different and unequal, a type of gender segregation. One can only wonder what kind of freaks might choose to use such vows. Doesn't bear thinking about. 

Lili's puzzled thought for the day

Where is this meritocracy that you speak of, Marcia Langton?

Lili's disappointed thought for the day

I am often amazed at the drivel that can be found in blogs associated with newspapers and magazines that are regarded as having some authority. 

A quote about a synaesthete giant

"Not only did I like Evatt personally, but I had an immense admiration for his intellect. He was an intellectual giant! He had enormous courage and tremendous determination. Once Evatt set his plough to the furrow he would press on regardless."
- Clyde Cameron, page 443 in The Cameron Diaries, first published in 1990 by Allen and Unwin

The subject of this quote, H. V. Evatt or Doc Evatt, President of the United Nations General Assembly from 1948-1949 and leader of the ALP from 1951 to 1960, was not only an intellectual giant but he was also a synaesthete. Biographer Peter Crockett wrote that "... he 'saw' the days of the week in colour" on page 9 of his 1993 psycho-biography Evatt: a life. This is one of the most common types of synesthesia. Crockett's original source was a letter about Evatt from the Australian artist Frank Hinder, who was a member of Evatt's artist wife's social circle. Hinder would certainly have been aware of synesthesia as a concept in art, being an admirer of painters such as the synaesthete Kandinsky. Hinder could well have been a synaesthete himself, he worked with light projections and this interest went back to his childhood, but I don't think there is definite evidence.

Where do people like Evatt come from, and why does it appear that there are no politicians or public figures of his like in public life today? Has nature ceased to produce greatness in intellect and leadership, or do young people no longer aspire to achieve greatness?

H.V. Evatt is one of the dozens of famous and fascinating people included in my massive and well-researched list of famous synaesthetes or possible synesthetes

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lili's sad thought for the day

I find it amazing that the nation that gave us such a beautiful movie as Val Lewton's The Curse of the Cat People (don't be put off by the terrible title - it's a great film) is the same nation that now drugs and sometimes locks up children like Jani Schofield and her friend Briana. What went wrong during the last seventy-odd years? How can such wisdom be lost?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lili's proposal for the day

Could we swap Natasha Mitchell for Claudia Hammond? 

Lili's tip for the day

I think Tomas would be most interested in some of the info within the chapter about synesthesia in the terrific new book by BBC radio journalist and synaesthete Claudia Hammond, titled Time warped: unlocking the mysteries of time perception

Pussy Riot won't be seeking a pardon from Putin

"Let them go to hell with their pardon"

- Pussy Riot quoted by their defence lawyer

Lili's question for the day

There's been so much fuss made over images of very thin models in magazines for girls and women, but I seem to be the only person who is fed up with viewing gaunt lady reporters and announcers on the evening TV news, and shrunken American actresses. Why is middle-class, adult and educated anorexia more socially acceptable than young super-model anorexia?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

This from New Scientist?

A quote from sycophantic review of Tammet's latest book by Simon Ings at a New Scientist magazine blog:

"Numbers have texture, colour and character. Whether we pay attention to these qualities, explore them and enjoy them, is a little bit to do with our genetic inheritance, much more to do with our schooling, and ultimately down to personal choice."

A genuine grapheme-colour and ordinal linguistic personification synaesthete says that is crap. Personified and coloured numbers or letters are completely subjective and idiosyncratic and untaught phenomena, which non-synaesthetes cannot experience in the same way as genuine, developmental synesthetes. Anyone who has told you different probably isn't a genuine synaesthete.

When educated people are this ignorant....

The other day I was chatting with an Australian who works as a lecturer. The subject of Julian Assange's situation came up in conversation, and the lecturer told me he didn't understand why Assange didn't just go to Sweden "to face the charges". What charges? If educated, middle-class Australians can be this ignorant, what hope can we have? 

Lili's thought for the day

Julian, you have done something that no politician has ever achieved - you've made me feel proud to be an Australian. 

Some 2012 papers on hyperthymestic syndrome / HSAM

Aurora K.R. LePort, Aaron T. Mattfeld, Heather Dickinson-Anson, James H. Fallon, Craig E.L. Stark, Frithjof Kruggel, Larry Cahill, James L. McGaugh (2012) Behavioral and neuroanatomical investigation of Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM). Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. Volume 98, Issue 1, July 2012, Pages 78–92.
Received 1 February 2012. Revised 30 April 2012. Accepted 21 May 2012. Available online 28 May 2012.

Funny how there is no mention of any of the collection of terms that this memory gift phenomenon was previously named, even though two of the researchers who wrote this paper were also co-authors of the original 2006 journal paper about the condition. Why are neuroscience researchers renaming this condition, with the effect that the body of literature about the same subject becomes fragmented or partly lost when people try to do searches for papers on the subject?

Brandon A. Ally, Erin P. Hussey & Manus J. Donahue (2012) A case of hyperthymesia: rethinking the role of the amygdala in autobiographical memory. Neurocase. 2012 Apr 23. [Epub ahead of print] 

It looks like the subject in this study is a man given the anonymous name HK. It looks like these are videos about the above most interesting study, featuring a young man named HK who is blind and has cerebral palsy and a short stature. A quote from the video from neuroscientist Dr Brandon Ally:

"His amygdala's twenty percent larger than normal." "His connectivity's also very much more dense, almost ten times more than normal individuals." 

Such increased connectivity sounds similar to one of the brain differences that characterizes synaesthesia, so I'm keen to get a hold of this paper to find out whether this is yet another journal paper about superior autobiographical memory that ignores the question of whether or not it is linked with synesthesia.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tammet given lie-detector tests by scientists? Really?

"He has been pricked and prodded, hooked to electrodes and even lie-detector tests by well-meaning scientists around the world interested in his special case."

- a quote about Daniel Tammet from the book and also the blog about famous synaesthetes both titled Tasting the Universe by Maureen Seaberg

Sounds most interesting, but sadly, Seaberg gives no details about this testing of Tammet, and I've been unable to find any info about lie-detector testing in the scientific literature. If you can help with more info on this topic, I'd love to know. I find it rather hard to believe that anyone worth the description of "scientist" would administer or even recommend a lie-detector test, as it is my understanding that they have no scientific credibility. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

From a popular Australian parenting magazine........

"Luckily, we found a brilliant young psychologist who could see our son quickly. My son and I filled out lengthy questionnaires, and he was tested for hours, including having to interpret people's feelings from photos of different facial expressions. Reading people's expressions is hard for people with Asperger's. I thought he did quite well, but the verdict was textbook Asperger's. This has led to frequent sessions with a psychologist....."

I bet it has. What's the betting that the kid was diagnosed with the help of the child version of the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test, a version of a test of questionable value? And what's the betting that the questionnaires administered were often-criticized instruments from Baron-Cohen's Autism Research Centre? For Pete's sake, it looks like the poor kid didn't even do convincingly badly on the test of reading facial expressions. You have had your son labelled for life on the basis of what?

Eriksen, Karen (2012) A teacher's intuition. Sydney's Child.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shame on you, Canberra Times / Sydney Morning Herald

Morris, Linda (2012) Nothing wrong with humble pi. Canberra Times. August 12th 2012.

"When, in 2004, Tammet stood before an audience at Oxford University's Museum of the History of Science to recite the 22,514 digits of pi, collecting a European record, he had the numbers printed on letter-sized sheets, a thousand digits to a page and perused them as a painter interprets light."

But.....wouldn't that have been cheating? WTF does Linda Morris, features writer for The Canberra Times think a recitation of the number Pi actually is? Just some person standing in front of a group of supervisors reading the number off a massive big print-out from some computer? What? What would that prove? What would be the point? Anyone could do such a thing. It's dumb enough that Linda has done what countless "journalists" have done before her - write an unskeptical and fawning interview article about Daniel Tammet/Corney, but she also clearly doesn't have the slightest idea what a Pi recitation is, and also shows complete ignorance of the existence of memory sport, memory strategies such as the "memory palace" otherwise known as the "method of loci", and of course, complete ignorance of Tammet's life before he changed his surname from Corney, including his years as a competitor in the World Memory Championships.

"Tammet's rare form of Asperger syndrome, diagnosed when he was 25, makes social interaction difficult but rendered this most astonishing feat of mental alacrity a relatively easy task. With characteristic understatement, Tammet concedes he has what others regard as a good memory, and lucked in with the type of mind that can easily recall birthdays, anniversaries and phone numbers."

Poor Linda clearly has no idea that currently there are a total of ninety-eight women and men ranked above Daniel Corney, who is Daniel Tammet before his name change, in the international ranking of the World Memory Championship. I'm sure that if Ms Morris had bothered to contact any one of those memory sport champions, they would have informed her that their memory feats are the result of the determined application of memory techniques, and are not  a natural consequence of Asperger syndrome, autism or some other type of mysterious savantism. But Linda didn't.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find such dumb-***kery published in The Canberra Times, because, as Mr Tammet the self-appointed numbers expert might well point out, the numbers predict that such unforgivably sloppy and stupid journalism will occur and even predominate in coverage of Daniel Tammet, just because of a process of elimination. Perhaps most journalists in the world suspect or know that there is something sus about Daniel Tammet.  The trouble is, they probably wouldn't be the journalists to seek or to be granted an interview with the man. The good journalists will probably not be represented at all among the set of journalists who have written about Tammet. They will be absent from the Tammet press article genre (but I'm sure they aren't losing sleep about it). I think it is fair to say that the journalist who most effectively publicized the truth about Tammet, book author Joshua Foer, initially had a good relationship with Tammet and most likely initially set out to write the same type of positive and ignorant piece about Tammet that is the usual thing. Foer was in two minds about publishing his skepticism about Tammet. I picked out a lot of sloppiness in the research about synaesthesia that went into Foer's chapter about Tammet, and with hindsight I don't think Foer is of a completely different league than other journalists who have written about Tammet. Garbage ( in science and neuroscience reporting) gets into print. Good stuff doesn't get written, except almost by accident. Great system we have here!

Tammet was on Aussie radio today

I missed the radio interview broadcast this morning with Daniel Tammet on Life Matters, on the promotional trail for his latest book. Just a few months ago I would have been tuned in, but as a part of my early spring-clean, I've reset the tuning of my old radio to Triple J from Radio National. It hasn't been much of a talk radio station in the mornings since Ramona Koval left, and when they put the deplorable Wendy Harmer on that was just the last straw. They've dumbed-down at the ABC, and I'm not joining 'em.

P.S. I've played the interview through a few times, but have been unable to focus all the way through it. I don't think Mr Tammet says anything much about maths that isn't simple or obvious, and I couldn't detect a shred of skepticism on the part of the interviewer, Natasha Mitchell. This dribble is chewing gum for the intellect. Tammet's constant mispronounciation comes across more as sloppiness than a genuine speech impediment. Does anyone think this is how autistic people typically speak? Replacing "L" sounds with "W" sounds? Mixing up consonants? In print and on the radio, I find Mr Tammet highly therapeutic, as a cure for insomnia.

Some dates for Tammet-watchers to note

August 15th 2012 (today) - Tammet appearing at the  Edinburgh International Book Festival (three hours from now)
but funny thing, Tammet isn't listed in the Writers' A to Z at the festival's website:

August 16th 2012 - release date of Tammet's new book Thinking in Numbers

September 20th 2012Live online Q&A with Daniel Tammet at "Talk About Autism"

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lili's thought for the day

The London Olympics volunteers are sporting shirts of a most striking pink colour. It reminds me of the day when one of our kids drank quite a lot of strawberry-flavoured milk just before a nasty tummy bug struck. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lili's next thought for the day

If Daniel Tammet is such a rare and exceptional genius savant, then what about the 98 other very clever men and women who are currently ranked above him memory sport? What are they?

Lili's thought for the day

In battles and disputes over theories between scientists, the truth is often the first casualty. This is not the way that the game of science is supposed to operate!

Controversial story still withdrawn by ABC Radio National

The transcript of the most interesting report about the Australian celebrity autistic Donna Williams is still ex-published from the website of The Health Report at the ABC's Radio National. It had been published for years and freely available. Why is it not available now?

How long it is going to take?

"It’s also worth noting that Shereshevsky is not an isolated instance of apparently natural exceptional memory (which strategies can enhance further, but which aren’t the entire explanation for), linked to some abnormal condition, such as synaesthesia or autism. For instance, I have published a descriptive/behavioural and an fMRI paper on one modern equivalent, Daniel Tammet, who has synaesthesia and autism, as well as an exceptional memory."

- British neuroscientist and author Dr Daniel Bor, August 9th 2012

Dr Bor has a pop neuroscience book due out later this month, and it looks like Tammet is discussed at length without a scrap of skepticism within it. Sometimes I wonder why I bother....

Lili's dismayed thought for the day

Why does the French Wikipedia often have fuller articles than the English version? 

Lili's exasperated thought for the day

Why do art books, including books about artists, usually lack an index? 

Thursday, August 09, 2012

TM's synaesthesia

"The description of his earliest memory and of experiencing colours and tastes in response to numbers suggest some pre-existing unusual aspects to his sensory experience, which may have been accentuated subsequently through practice."
- a quote from page 113 of the book Superior Memory by UK memory researchers John Wilding and Elizabeth Valentine, published in 1997.

Lili's thought for the day

The Pirahã people have a language that is both gender-segregated and also embodies within it's grammar something resembling the basic philosophy of the evidence-based movement of the late 20th to 21st centuries in the developed world. How fascinating.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Tell your daughter....

Advice on parenting teenage daughters through the ages....

"Is she living in a way that respects the Queen's values?"

"Is she living in a way that respects your values and the values of your faith?"

"Make sure that your daughter knows that she has rights, including the right to be treated as an equal."

c2012 via Catherine Gerhardt and Michael Grose 
"It is important that we open up conversations around values and beliefs." " Encourage her to know who she is and keep to her values." "Is she living in a way that respects her core values?"

Sunday, August 05, 2012

One of a kind

According to legend, the brilliant, famous and eccentric mathematician Paul Erdos stopped taking amphetamines for a month to win a bet. He then declared that mathematics had been set back by a month and resumed his habit. Erdos was also fond of a cup of coffee, but he had no time for alcohol, which he referred to as poison.

Erdos is one of the dozens of awe-inspiring famous people in my fantastically big and interesting list of dead and living famous people who have been identified as autistic. It has been almost a year since I added anything to that list, and I don't foresee much work happening on it in the near to mid future. 

A referenced list of 175 famous or important people diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition or subject of published speculation about whether they are or were on the autistic spectrum

Friday, August 03, 2012

Lili's unhappy tale of the day

Filled with good intentions, religious zeal and more than a pinch of homophobia, but rather short on education, they formed a circle and held their hands, over the lizards, the ants, the buzzing and crawling insects and spiders, the wildflowers of various colours and the native creepers. A smell like honey mixed with the scent of a florist's shop filled the air. As they turned their eager faces toward the sky some were shaded by the fuzzy and scalloped leaves of the twisted old trees, which were adapted to find sustenance in soil in which few permanent plants could survive. They asked God what He wanted them to do with the block of land that they had automatically been allocated by the government when the suburb had first been established. They had already established a church and had come to dominate the markets in welfare-to-work services, second-hand goods recycling and retailing and educational programs for welfare recipients in the area, and they just didn’t know what to do with themselves next. God said unto them that they should hire a contractor to mow down the scrub and to clear a very wide firebreak all around the block, so that the weeds will have a place to grow and the rubbish dumpers will have ready access, and then when the weeds grow high after the winter rains, call in the local volunteer fire brigade to do a controlled burn, which should rid the land of most of the beauty and the wild ungodly nature, and create a hideous Hell on Earth for the undeserving working-class heathens to behold every day. 

Lili's thought for the day

I have personally been segregated by gender at work, while working, for no good reason. I work for one of Australia's largest corporations. I have no reason in the world to believe that anyone except me thinks this is not a good thing.

Lili's cynical thought for the day

Considering all the rot that has been written about Sol the synaesthete mnemonist over the years, and the sloppy rubbish and biased spin that science journalists, science writers and many scientists pump out every year, I see so much hypocrisy in making a great, big example of Jonah Lehrer.

Lili's disappointed thought for the day

Get some nuts Aung San Suu Kyi, and show some support for the Rohingya People!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Lili's exasperated thought for the day

UNBELIEVEABLE!!! Michael Schofield is doing the rounds of TV shows promoting his book, telling the same old story, and no one is questioning any of it. IT'S THE DANIEL TAMMET CRAPFEST ALL OVER AGAIN!

Lili's thought for the day

God save us all - someone's written a pop science book about oxytocin, and  some publisher has gone and published it.