20 March, 2021

Live a life worth living

Life is not fair. You would be foolish to expect fairness, at least when it comes to matters of life and death, matters outside the scope of the law, matters that cannot be engineered or manipulated by human effort, matters that are distinctly the domain of God or luck or fate or some other unknowable, incomprehensible force. [...]

My sweet babies, I do not have the answer to the question of why, at least not now and not in this life. But I do know that there is incredible value in pain and suffering, if you allow yourself to experience it, to cry, to feel sorrow and grief, to hurt. Walk through the fire and you will emerge on the other end, whole and stronger. I promise. You will ultimately find truth and beauty and wisdom and peace. You will understand that nothing lasts forever, not pain, or joy. You will understand that joy cannot exist without sadness. Relief cannot exist without pain. Compassion cannot exist without cruelty. Courage cannot exist without fear. Hope cannot exist without despair. Wisdom cannot exist without suffering. Gratitude cannot exist without deprivation. Paradoxes abound in this life. Living is an exercise in navigating within them. [...]

I have often dreamed that when I die, I will finally know what it would be like to see the world without visual impairment, to see far into the distance, to see the minute details of a bird, to drive a car. Oh, how I long to have perfect vision, even after all these years without. I long for death to make me whole, to give me what was denied me in this life. I believe this dream will come true. Similarly, when your time comes, I will be there waiting for you, so that you, too, will be given what was lost to you. I promise. But in the meantime, live, my darling babies. Live a life worth living. Live thoroughly and completely, thoughtfully, gratefully, courageously, and wisely. Live!

I love you both forever and ever, to infinity, through space and time. Never ever forget that.


13 March, 2021

In Furor Over Poet With Child Porn Conviction, Prison Abolitionists Debate the Limits of Mercy


 WHAT HAS BEEN interesting about this dispute is that it’s not the usual law-and-order hard-liners versus insurgents against the Prison Nation, not the censors versus the American Civil Liberties Union or the anti-“cancel culture” right (though there is some of that, here and here). Rather, the outcry against Poetry reveals ambivalence among folks who are committed to dismantling the Prison Nation.

“Can @poetrymagazine publish murderers? Can they publish carjackers? Rapists?” tweeted Reginald Dwayne Betts (no relation to Tara), who participated in a carjacking at 16, was locked up for eight years, and eventually became an award-winning writer, Yale-educated lawyer, and, now, poetry editor of the New York Times. Referring to that job, he asks, “What is the line of people that cannot have poems published? … Please clue me in on what’s impermissible.”

“And also, I need to know the limits of abolitionist rhetoric. Cause, the same people saying abolition one minute and crying foul the next, I gotta get things right.”

Tara Betts’s tweet communicates that she can tolerate this, the moral tension at the heart of prison abolitionism. Dwayne Betts is asking his comrades to negotiate the terrain together, because it’s slippery.

Looking For Right And Wrong In The Philippines


With eight major languages spoken across its 7,000-plus islands, the Philippines is a fragmented place, and even the dangers vary by region. On the northern island of Luzon, communist insurgents attack from base camps hidden in the mountains. In the Visayas, a cluster of touristic islands in the center of the country, military forces recently warded off an attempted terrorist attack by Abu Sayyaf, a jihadist group pledging allegiance to ISIS. In Mindanao, the threat comes from the Islamist rebel groups determined to form an independent state for the country’s Muslim minorities.

These rebels carry on a war that their ancestors had waged for centuries, resisting the Spanish colonizers who arrived in 1521 and the American occupiers of the early 20th century. In 1989, the Philippine government granted the rebels partial autonomy over a crescent of land along the eastern coast of Mindanao. Today, the region is a hub of militant activity. Communist guerrillas, Muslim separatist rebels, and jihadist terrorist groups have all made base in the area. The fighting got so bad this May that President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law over the entire island of Mindanao.

My Uncle Pepo and other locals consider the rebel-controlled land off-limits, and the area just outside its border a danger zone. Our farm sits 5 miles from that border.

11 March, 2021

On Facebook and misinformation


Since then, other employees have corroborated these findings. A former Facebook AI researcher who joined in 2018 says he and his team conducted “study after study” confirming the same basic idea: models that maximize engagement increase polarization. They could easily track how strongly users agreed or disagreed on different issues, what content they liked to engage with, and how their stances changed as a result. Regardless of the issue, the models learned to feed users increasingly extreme viewpoints. “Over time they measurably become more polarized,” he says.

The researcher’s team also found that users with a tendency to post or engage with melancholy content—a possible sign of depression—could easily spiral into consuming increasingly negative material that risked further worsening their mental health. The team proposed tweaking the content-ranking models for these users to stop maximizing engagement alone, so they would be shown less of the depressing stuff. “The question for leadership was: Should we be optimizing for engagement if you find that somebody is in a vulnerable state of mind?” he remembers. (A Facebook spokesperson said she could not find documentation for this proposal.)

OrbitRock_ on forests and climate change


Comparing 1970s-2000 to 2000-2016, the fire season of the latter is 17 days longer, and the window for highest risk of severe fire 9 days longer.

Earlier snowmelt also contributes, especially in combination with a longer warm season.

So, even though we can expect that more large fire is likely due to our legacy of forest management practices, forest aridity is a key driving factor of fire and it has increased substantially over the past decades.

climate change has increased the aridity of forests, the probability of fire, the probability of severe fire, and in many places, decreased the probability of tree regeneration post-fire. And a lot of research supports this.

03 March, 2021

Resurrection of Kelly Marie Tran: On Surviving 'Star Wars' Bullying, the Pressures of Representation, and 'Raya and the Last Dragon'


When told that her behavior is unusual for an actor: "That makes me want to die," says Tran. "Maybe it's because, to this day, I still have worked longer as an admin assistant than a working actor, and because I didn't grow up in the industry. Going into my first movie, I remember people being like, 'Oh, you're hanging out with the PAs on the weekends,' and I'd be like, 'Yeah, so?' I still don't ever want to believe these made-up status titles we have in Hollywood. I tell my agents all the time: 'The day that becomes me, I will go back to college and become a scientist.' "

02 March, 2021

u/drewiepoodle on trans discrimination


The transgender community has a high rates of suicide attempts because of discrimination against us, not because we're trans.

  • Kyle K. H. Tan, et al., 2020 Study finds that transgender people who have experienced stigma, including harassment, violence, and discrimination because of their identity are much more likely to have poor mental health outcomes.

  • Perez-Brumer, 2017: "Mediation analyses demonstrated that established psychosocial factors, including depression and school-based victimization, partly explained the association between gender identity and suicidal ideation."

  • Seelman, 2016: "Findings indicate relationships between denial of access to bathrooms and gender-appropriate campus housing and increased risk for suicidality, even after controlling for interpersonal victimization in college. "

  • Klein, Golub, 2016: "After controlling for age, race/ethnicity, sex assigned at birth, binary gender identity, income, education, and employment status, family rejection was associated with increased odds of both behaviors. Odds increased significantly with increasing levels of family rejection."

  • Miller, Grollman, 2015: "The results suggest that gender nonconforming trans people face more discrimination and, in turn, are more likely to engage in health‐harming behaviors than trans people who are gender conforming."

If we're supported in our transition, suicide rates actually go down:

  • Bauer, et al., 2015: Transition vastly reduces risks of suicide attempts, and the farther along in transition someone is the lower that risk gets.

  • de Vries, et al, 2014: A clinical protocol of a multidisciplinary team with mental health professionals, physicians, and surgeons, including puberty suppression, followed by cross-sex hormones and gender reassignment surgery, provides trans youth the opportunity to develop into well-functioning young adults. All showed significant improvement in their psychological health, and they had notably lower rates of internalizing psychopathology than previously reported among trans children living as their natal sex. Well-being was similar to or better than same-age young adults from the general population.

  • Gorton, 2011 (Prepared for the San Francisco Department of Public Health): “In a cross-sectional study of 141 transgender patients, Kuiper and Cohen-Kittenis found that after medical intervention and treatments, suicide fell from 19 percent to zero percent in transgender men and from 24 percent to 6 percent in transgender women.)”

  • Murad, et al., 2010: "Significant decrease in suicidality post-treatment. The average reduction was from 30% pretreatment to 8% post treatment."

  • De Cuypere, et al., 2006Rate of suicide attempts dropped dramatically from 29.3% to 5.1% after receiving medical and surgical treatment among Dutch patients treated from 1986-2001.

  • UK study: "Suicidal ideation and actual attempts reduced after transition, with 63% thinking about or attempting suicide more before they transitioned and only 3% thinking about or attempting suicide more post-transition.

  • Heylens, 2014: Found that the psychological state of transgender people "resembled those of a general population after hormone therapy was initiated."

  • Perez-Brumer, 2017: "These findings suggest that interventions that address depression and school-based victimization could decrease gender identity-based disparities in suicidal ideation."