The curious thing about Scotland

Sep. 17th, 2014 12:59 pm
gerald_duck: (duckling frontal)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
I'm confused. At least in the BBC's reporting, I see three factions in the debate on Scottish independence

  • Scots who think they're better off independent
  • Scots who think they should remain in the Union
  • Outside observers — in the rest of the UK and elsewhere — who think the Union should remain

So… where are the outside observers who think Scotland's better off independent? Or, for that matter, the outside observers who think the rest of the UK is better off without Scotland?

Past all the contradictory invective, does this say something important about the reality of the situation, or is it just a thing?

Something that's clear to me: it would certainly be bad for Labour if Scotland became independent, no longer able to rely on all the Scottish Labour MPs in Westminster. Similarly, the nation's politics would shift to the right: while I'd personally never vote Labour, I'd prefer it if there were a stronger check on the Tories' ambitions than the LibDems.

Perhaps more interestingly, though, is this not a proxy EU referendum? If Scotland leaves the UK, it also leaves the EU because it wouldn't be willing to reapply without the opt-outs which it enjoys as part of the UK but that are not available to new members. Particularly, as the Irish Republic has discovered, participation in Schengen is incompatible with maintaining an open border with the UK. Plus, Belgium, Spain and other places with strong secessionist movements in various provinces are averse to setting the precedent of admitting Scotland anyway.

But also, if Scotland leaves the UK, it shifts the balance in the remainder strongly in favour of leaving the EU. Personally, I'm all for that, but I know I'm unusual in wanting to leave the EU without being xenophobic or right-wing.

Conversely, if Scotland remains in the Union, maybe the UK as a whole ends up staying in the EU.


In the past, before various elections, I've posted things here trying to sway people's votes in one direction or another. This time, it's absurdly hard to weigh up the conflicting concerns. I think on balance, independence would likely be bad for Scotland and good for us in the remainder of the UK, but I'm also small-c conservative, so risk-averse when it comes to such significant upheaval and uncertainty. Hohum…

Of course, this is largely academic as I don't have a vote. If you do, please choose wisely!

no. go away.

Sep. 17th, 2014 11:30 am
kaberett: Sketch of a "colourless, hamsterish"  animal having a paddy. (anxiety creature)
[personal profile] kaberett
"Stemettes" is an absolutely terrible term to use for female undergraduates in STEM fields. No. Wow. Inarticulate fury.
[personal profile] mjg59
ACPI is a complicated specification - the latest version is 980 pages long. But that's because it's trying to define something complicated: an entire interface for abstracting away hardware details and making it easier for an unmodified OS to boot diverse platforms.

Inevitably, though, it can't define the full behaviour of an ACPI system. It doesn't explicitly state what should happen if you violate the spec, for instance. Obviously, in a just and fair world, no systems would violate the spec. But in the grim meathook future that we actually inhabit, systems do. We lack the technology to go back in time and retroactively prevent this, and so we're forced to deal with making these systems work.

This ends up being a pain in the neck in the x86 world, but it could be much worse. Way back in 2008 I wrote something about why the Linux kernel reports itself to firmware as "Windows" but refuses to identify itself as Linux. The short version is that "Linux" doesn't actually identify the behaviour of the kernel in a meaningful way. "Linux" doesn't tell you whether the kernel can deal with buffers being passed when the spec says it should be a package. "Linux" doesn't tell you whether the OS knows how to deal with an HPET. "Linux" doesn't tell you whether the OS can reinitialise graphics hardware.

Back then I was writing from the perspective of the firmware changing its behaviour in response to the OS, but it turns out that it's also relevant from the perspective of the OS changing its behaviour in response to the firmware. Windows 8 handles backlights differently to older versions. Firmware that's intended to support Windows 8 may expect this behaviour. If the OS tells the firmware that it's compatible with Windows 8, the OS has to behave compatibly with Windows 8.

In essence, if the firmware asks for Windows 8 support and the OS says yes, the OS is forming a contract with the firmware that it will behave in a specific way. If Windows 8 allows certain spec violations, the OS must permit those violations. If Windows 8 makes certain ACPI calls in a certain order, the OS must make those calls in the same order. Any firmware bug that is triggered by the OS not behaving identically to Windows 8 must be dealt with by modifying the OS to behave like Windows 8.

This sounds horrifying, but it's actually important. The existence of well-defined[1] OS behaviours means that the industry has something to target. Vendors test their hardware against Windows, and because Windows has consistent behaviour within a version[2] the vendors know that their machines won't suddenly stop working after an update. Linux benefits from this because we know that we can make hardware work as long as we're compatible with the Windows behaviour.

That's fine for x86. But remember when I said it could be worse? What if there were a platform that Microsoft weren't targeting? A platform where Linux was the dominant OS? A platform where vendors all test their hardware against Linux and expect it to have a consistent ACPI implementation?

Our even grimmer meathook future welcomes ARM to the ACPI world.

Software development is hard, and firmware development is software development with worse compilers. Firmware is inevitably going to rely on undefined behaviour. It's going to make assumptions about ordering. It's going to mishandle some cases. And it's the operating system's job to handle that. On x86 we know that systems are tested against Windows, and so we simply implement that behaviour. On ARM, we don't have that convenient reference. We are the reference. And that means that systems will end up accidentally depending on Linux-specific behaviour. Which means that if we ever change that behaviour, those systems will break.

So far we've resisted calls for Linux to provide a contract to the firmware in the way that Windows does, simply because there's been no need to - we can just implement the same contract as Windows. How are we going to manage this on ARM? The worst case scenario is that a system is tested against, say, Linux 3.19 and works fine. We make a change in 3.21 that breaks this system, but nobody notices at the time. Another system is tested against 3.21 and works fine. A few months later somebody finally notices that 3.21 broke their system and the change gets reverted, but oh no! Reverting it breaks the other system. What do we do now? The systems aren't telling us which behaviour they expect, so we're left with the prospect of adding machine-specific quirks. This isn't scalable.

Supporting ACPI on ARM means developing a sense of discipline around ACPI development that we simply haven't had so far. If we want to avoid breaking systems we have two options:

1) Commit to never modifying the ACPI behaviour of Linux.
2) Exposing an interface that indicates which well-defined ACPI behaviour a specific kernel implements, and bumping that whenever an incompatible change is made. Backward compatibility paths will be required if firmware only supports an older interface.

(1) is unlikely to be practical, but (2) isn't a great deal easier. Somebody is going to need to take responsibility for tracking ACPI behaviour and incrementing the exported interface whenever it changes, and we need to know who that's going to be before any of these systems start shipping. The alternative is a sea of ARM devices that only run specific kernel versions, which is exactly the scenario that ACPI was supposed to be fixing.

[1] Defined by implementation, not defined by specification
[2] Windows may change behaviour between versions, but always adds a new _OSI string when it does so. It can then modify its behaviour depending on whether the firmware knows about later versions of Windows.

OH. OH OH OH.

Sep. 16th, 2014 03:59 pm
kaberett: Toph making a rock angel (toph-rockangel)
[personal profile] kaberett
nts: Rhodri Davies on LLSVPs as purely thermal; statistical analysis --> plumes actually initiate prompted by downgoing slabs

pattern of downgone slabs? ages? association with age of AOC? globally widespread? modern-day plumes shouldn't care about 2.5Ga subducted slabs - but enough subducted crap lying around to explain it? Rather than LLSVPs, entrain mix of wossnames from lower mantle ("slab graveyard") allowing for more interesting complexity than LLSVP?

HUZZAH.

Sep. 16th, 2014 12:47 am
kaberett: a patch of sunlight on the carpet, shaped like a slightly wonky heart (light hearted)
[personal profile] kaberett
UP TO DATE ON THE INTRODUCTIONS MEME. Please go see if you'd like to get to know any of my awesome friends better, and if YOU, TOO would like an introduction but have thus far been too shy/busy/forgetful/whatever to request one, by all means go ahead and ask (though be aware that it may well take another fortnight for me to get around to catching up again...).

It may surprise those of you who have heard me complain to know that I do actually genuinely enjoy saying nice things about people, and it is currently very good for me to do so! So. (I am thinking I might run a more traditional love meme in November, also, because November is always hard and it's been a while since we've had one around here.) Thank you all for being wonderful.
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
(Not sure what's going on here? The answer is Ancillary Justice.)

We're told that Radchaai does not bother with gendered pronouns. It seems to me that the default pronoun used means gender-irrelevant (rather than gender-unknown or gender-specific, which seem to me to be a useful way of considering pronouns of gendered beings). We're told that Strigan's society uses gender-known pronouns even though it professes to consider gender irrelevant.

And yet: the Radchaai frequently refer to ships as "it" (I note that the standard English pronoun used to refer to vessels is the same as the way in which the Radchaai default pronoun is rendered). It's clearly not as simple as in/animate - ships have emotions, ships have personality and identity, ships are sentient, ships have ancillaries. Except that this is done in a literally dehumanising way - ships are explicitly not Radchaai, not citizens, and therefore not considered human; characters who are uninterested in or unsympathetic toward ships are far more likely to refer to them as "it", whereas characters who like ships seem to mostly not pronoun them; non-Radchaai humans are generally called the standard pronoun for Radchaai, despite being considered by at least some in the society to have sub-human status - and so I am left picking away at what distinction it is the Radch is making here...

Thoughts very much appreciated!
hairyears: (Default)
[personal profile] hairyears
I am going to tell you about a bad thing, and a Very bad thing, which you must never, ever do.

I would like to make it clear that I have not actually done these things, nor have I ever seen them done. I may, perhaps, have advocated them.

Picture the day: an office move, first day at a new desk, and your plastic crate of crap is tagged and waiting by the little 'pod' of cheap and nasty steel filing drawers, sitting on it's little squeaky castors under your desk.

Cut to spare readers of a nervous disposition... )
kaberett: Zuko kneeling, offering up his wrists (zuko-defeat)
[personal profile] kaberett
1. I ate raspberries I picked in my mother's garden yesterday.

2. I have worked through another level and a bit of Psychonauts on my ludicrous completionist replay. I appear to have little-to-no interest in the storyline this time around; apparently my patience for the misogyny and sizeism and even cissexism is 0 while I'm still interested in the mechanic. Also, I am playing through MUCH faster than last time.

3. Two meals, lots of meds. (Dinnerfood was leftovers from last week; it meant it was easy and I didn't have to wash up, just put things in the dishwasher.)

4. I continue my Ancillary Justice reread, and am probably going to put off reading the first chapter of Ancillary Sword until I have finished. (And I wept all over it on the tube, as ever - the scene at the beginning on Nilt with the kid whose family member was injured! The way the kid interacts with their mum! I have FEELS EVERYWHERE, every time.)

5. To my complete astonishment, I appear to have managed to tentatively set up a collaboration with someone I didn't previously know who is acquainted with my supervisor, on the merits of explaining my own research and asking tolerably intelligent questions about hers. I am flummoxed, but also greatly relieved (I feel like having set up a collaboration before I've even actually displayed my poster is fairly good going). (I really don't know how to feel about this conference - neither of my supervisors is present, but my head-of-group's wife & my mentor is one of the coorganisers, and two of the other organisers lectured and supervised me during undergrad, and there's an awful lot of people I know from Cambridge hanging around. Also an awful lot I don't, but... still weird.)

6. Wheelchair. I'd otherwise have been in even more pain by the end of the day than as it happens I was.

7. Continued progress on the introductions meme. I will post announcing properly when I'm actually up-to-date, but I've written a small pile more introductions!

8. D has arranged for me to own metallic teal eyeliner. I'm pretty chuffed about this. I mean, I'll have to learn to use it, but if I also acquire some gold + silver I will actually be able to do drag make-up eyes at least a bit?

9. Going via Green Park station (at least when I'm not transferring between Picadilly and Victoria lines) always makes me smile: the station art is lovely, as I believe I mentioned the last time I went to a conference in the area. (It's mostly built out of a limestone full of shells, in the way that means the outside face of the block has depressions for the hollows of the shells; one line of blocks is, instead of limestone, concrete with similar patterns made at like 100x scale.)

10. Because this conference is in Burlington House and hideously inaccessible (... more later maybe; not a good thing to dwell on now), I ended up waiting around a bit for help leaving. This meant that I got to peek behind the curtains at the bottom of the stairs that cover the first geological map in the world.

Orthodontics considered harmful

Sep. 15th, 2014 05:43 pm
gerald_duck: (Oh really?)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
I last wrote about orthodontics back in 2007. It feels like time to revisit the subject.

Increasingly I'm of the opinion that we, as a society, should be taking a long, hard look at the practice.

The main problems I see are:

This document appears to be the British Orthodontic Society's manifesto in support of its craft and I found it a real eye-opener. On the health side, it includes such gems as:

However, the evidence linking periodontal (gum) disease and crowding of the teeth is conflicting. Some studies have found no associations between crowded teeth and periodontal destruction. Others have shown that mal-aligned teeth may have more plaque retention than straight teeth but socio-economic group, gender, tooth size and tooth surface have greater influences.

…and on the aesthetic side:

One of the most significant effects of a malocclusion is its psycho-social impact on the individual patient. There is little doubt that a poor dental appearance can have a profound psycho-social effect on children. Shaw et al. (1980) found that children were teased more about their teeth than anything else e.g. clothes, weight, ears. A person’s dental appearance can have a significant effect on how they feel about themselves. Children and adolescents with poor teeth can often become targets for teasing and harassment from other children. This results in these patients being unsure of themselves in social interaction and having lower self-esteem.


A popular misconception is that if treatment is available on the NHS then there is a direct clinical need and it is not solely aesthetic. A careful reading of the criteria reveals that "Treatment may be also made available if the appearance of a person's teeth, jaws or face are of concern."

In some ways, this feels tantamount to victim-blaming. Take emotionally vulnerable adolescents, accept and normalise the teasing and bullying of those with unusual dentition, claim there are significant health benefits to treatment, speak as though there is a "need" for treatment, then expect they'll go through with it. If they decline treatment, the narrative goes, all their teeth will fall out and their peers will mock and shun them. And it will be their own fault!

In reality, it seems teeth are very resistant to being moved about. Although people might be happy with the results immediately afterwards, it won't necessarily last for long. To quote the NHS again "The only way to have permanently straight teeth is to wear a retainer on a part-time basis for life." That is probably surprising news to a lot of people who've been talked into orthodontic treatment.

A further consideration that baffles me: I have a full set of teeth. Although less common now that functional orthodonics are coming in, it seems standard practice is to remove four premolars during orthodontic treatment. Huh? In what way does it make sense to sacrifice four teeth to the cause of not losing teeth? I can lose three teeth and still be ahead of the game!


But more than anything else, we know that a person's smile is important. If this weren't so, people wouldn't be so fixated on such issues. Smiles are gradually being nudged towards bland uniformity. Is there not value in diversity and individualism? It surprises me that parents who would be aghast at the idea of, say, circumcision or breast enlargements are willing to subject their children to cosmetic dentistry.


You may notice that I appear unreasonably invested in this issue, and you'd be right. The process of evading orthodontistry as a child was somewhat traumatic for me — especially since as well as all the relatively rational concerns I had the more visceral phobia of people messing with my mouth, of appliances being fixed to my body that I couldn't then remove, of having perfectly healthy teeth pulled out. Being honest, in my state back then, orthodontistry was probably out of the question regardless of any legitimate health need.

But now I'm 43. After getting scared off dentists as a kid, I finally dared return in my mid-twenties. Suddenly, now that dentists were speaking to me as an adult, my teeth turned out to be completely OK and have remained so. But still, I have this nagging paranoia that I went against dental orthodoxy and one day I may pay for it. I'm slightly prone to hypochondria anyway; it's harder to fight a fear that is reinforced rather than allayed by the medical profession.

Earlier this year, I asked my dentist outright about my crowded mouth and the prospect now of orthodontistry. He said my dentition, though irregular, was completely healthy and functional and I'd be ineligible for an NHS referral. This was a considerable relief to me, though somewhat outrageous given it so clearly contradicts what three orthodontists said when I was a teenager.

In myself, I like my smile. I have a some incisors that have shunted and twisted a bit to make room. I have one canine in front of the other teeth. You could take a photo of my grin and it would be distinctively mine. That's actually a good thing.

Even then, there's the rhetoric that society is supposed to despise irregular teeth and crave uniformity. I feel like everyone is told to hate my smile. That's Not OK. And it makes me a bit sad once in a while. Just as it makes me sad when I find out yet another person has had orthodontic treatment on fairly specious grounds, largely against their will, regrets all the aggro and discomfort and pain, is disappointed with how things turned out ten years on. I wistfully reflect that their natural smile is now lost forever.

I'm in a minority. But I know various of you have kids that might be coming up to the age for this kind of thing. If nothing else, please consider that this might not be a minority view forever. Oh, and that even if it's a little less straightforward and effective, treatment can be left until you're an adult and able to make your own informed decisions.

[Edit: Sure enough, it turns out there's already the Yaeba trend in Japan. Also, something I forgot to say before: the British Orthodontic Society's publication contains some informative pictures of what dentition looks like when it really does need correcting on functional grounds.]

Guilty secrets

Sep. 14th, 2014 05:22 pm
gerald_duck: (psycho)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
In a previous posting I noteed that rights are not for having, they are for conferring.

Back in 2012, I contrasted the privacy situation in the UK with that in Sweden.

That was before the Snowden revelations. And before I was a Christian.

So, to be explicitly clear: I'm not proposing to seek to curtail anyone's right to privacy. On the other hand, I'm led to wonder what the Christlike attitude to my own privacy might be.

In particular, at various points in the recent unpleasantness with [livejournal.com profile] geraldinegoose I complained at her for showing other people messages I'd sent her in confidence.

Why?

I've come to realise that not wanting a message shared is a pretty good indication that, in your heart of hearts, you know sending it was wrong in some important way. "It might be misinterpreted", "they lack context" and similar excuses are generally just a deeper form of self-deception.

Indeed, while it's easily possible to over-egg the image of God sitting there watching everything we do (and the people who emphasise this appear certain that he's especially interested, for some reason, in masturbation) there is nonetheless an obvious flaw in hiding conduct from one's peers which cannot be hidden from God. And if you are worried how they'll react if they find out, you really do not want to know how dim a view God will take.

To be sure, sometimes it's worth keeping something from a person until they're ready to hear it. Sometimes you need to keep your messages secret for the sake of someone else's privacy. But in general, I'm realising I ought to be living my life rather more out in the open. And thinking more carefully about the cleanliness of any linen I'm unhappy washing in public.

[PhD planning]

Sep. 14th, 2014 07:21 pm

[perfume] bits and pieces!

Sep. 14th, 2014 07:00 pm
kaberett: a watercolour of a pale gold/salmon honeysuckle blossom against a background of green leaves (honeysuckle)
[personal profile] kaberett
Today I made friends with some new perfumes on my way through John Lewis, on which very brief notes.
  • Bulgari Jasmin Noir: unpleasant bubble bath, fading to mild but non-descript bubble bath. Perfume says "** Noir is the new silly. This is the sort of industrial-strength, thickly scored, too-many-cookes (four perfumers, apparently) composition the French call une soupe. TS describes the genre as cough-syrup ice cream, and I agree." Unlike Bulgari Black, doesn't simply turn into vanilla cookies on me.
  • Guerlain Shalimar: goes on very strong, fades to quite a pleasant vanilla with something a little medicinally wholesome around the edges. Unnoticeable except right up against my skin, a couple of hours on; on me, it is entirely unclear why Perfume gives it five stars (but then they give two stars to a bunch of stuff that's nuanced and exquisite on me, so! Skin chemistry...)
  • Guerlain Shalimar Initial: described by the counter staff as "lighter, more rose". Well, maybe, but it went on uninspiring and has faded away to pretty much nothing. Underwhelming first foray into Guerlain.
  • Penhaligon's Lothair (linked because actual notes listed): thing that grabbed me most today. Amazing on the testing strip and in the bottle. It goes on very green on me, with the fig milk obvious; unfortunately I seem to amp juniper so it spends the first few hours just smelling like I've bathed in gin. Some time on, it's instead vanilla and lightly burned toast with a hint of bitter greens and, yes, tea. Alas it is probably not nice enough on me to buy any, but once again I am kind of tempted towards scent lockets...

Other adornment-related snippets: Lush Christmas release apparently hits shops on the 3rd of October, whereupon I will pounce on a large bottle of Rose Jam, if it is rereleased this year. There is going to be an enormous Lush store (biggest in world, containing spa, etc) opening on Oxford Street in March. And METALLIC TEAL LIQUID EYELINER.

todo/tada

Sep. 14th, 2014 06:36 pm
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
(copied from infodump at an absent [personal profile] quartzpebble, the better to keep track/tick things off; includes several blog posts, so apologies in advance about that!)

(nb self: there's a poem trying to happen about "it is a luxury to know you'd make the same choice again", also stuff about material vs spiritual gain/growth, also disability-stuff about how building stamina isn't really relevant to me with my combination of conditions because fundamentally I need the chair because otherwise I will unpredictably collapse with pain)

todo )

tada )

Steam usernames, take 2

Sep. 14th, 2014 12:27 am
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
[personal profile] sophie
As most readers of my journal know, I am a transgender woman. As part of the process of transitioning, I've been changing the names of the various accounts I use online.

I encountered a roadblock when I wanted to change my Steam username, but couldn't because of Steam's policy that accounts cannot be renamed. (That situation eventually got resolved when you guys spread the word about what was going on, but at the time it was really frustrating.)

Since then I've been keeping track of whether their policy has changed. That appears not to be the case, sadly - one-and-a-half years ago I asked if anything had changed, and the answer was no. And now, it appears as if Steam is at it again, in exactly the same way as it did three-and-a-half years ago with my original request.

A new friend of mine, Katy ([twitter.com profile] kateunafraid) is trying to get Steam support to change her username.

Here's how her ticket started (ticket 4642-QTSL-8416, reproduced with permission) )Oh hey, I recognise this. That's exactly the same stock answer they sent me, with just the name of the menu option to click changed.

Now, like me, Katy has already done all this. Changing the names that are visible to other people isn't the issue here; the issue is changing the username itself.

As I stated in the follow-up post when this was resolved for me:
...a username is not just an arbitrary selection of letters and numbers. That is to say, from a technical perspective it is, but in all other respects it's part of an identity. For a lot of people, that identity overlaps with their real life identity, and if that identity changes, it only makes sense that the username should be able to be changed along with it.
Now, it's true that a lot of sites don't have the ability to change your usernames. Conversely, however, those same sites often do not involve financial transactions, or if they do, they normally allow at least an option to transfer any purchased assets to another account.

Steam doesn't even do that. What Steam expects you to do if you want to change username is to register a new account and re-purchase ALL your games. If you don't do that, you will be forced to either split your games between two different accounts, or to leave Steam entirely.

Um, no. Nobody should ever have to give up hundreds, even thousands of dollars' worth of games because of an identity change. Yet that is exactly what's happening with many people in the same situation. Why is this allowed?

You may remember that in my post one-and-a-half years ago where I asked Steam staff if they had made any policy changes, I outlined a deliberately narrow group to ask about, because I felt that if any policy change had been made, it would apply to the people within these criteria:
...having had a legal name change (with evidence in the form of legally-recognised documentation such as a deed poll or statutory declaration), a username which was clearly based on their old name, and a clean VAC record...
I believe the option to change username should be available, at the very least, to people who meet these criteria. I would not be fundamentally opposed to this username change being subject to an additional charge, but I do believe that if you fit these criteria, imposing an additional charge on top of the charges already incurred by obtaining the legally-recognised evidence doesn't really make sense.

I don't believe that these criteria are unreasonable, and Katy meets all three. That being the case, I believe that it's reasonable to ask Steam to allow Katy to change her Steam username, hence this post.

As with the last time this happened, this is a public post on DW (as are most of my posts). Please feel free to link to it from elsewhere if you agree!

(Subscribers to this journal should watch for another post after this one that I'm going to make access-only; I'm writing an email to Gabe to hopefully get this sorted out for all trans people, and I'd like your thoughts on it!)
gerald_duck: (nightmare)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
This is another important thing I've realised about how relationships can go wrong. Yes, I'm still reading, contemplating and digesting The Road Less Travelled, and it's still a real eye-opener.

Peck is very careful in his analysis of love and makes a compelling argument that most people misunderstand it. Love itself is an activity which nurtures someone's spiritual growth, either one's own or another person's. He says that "if an act is not one of work or courage, then it is not an act of love. There are no exceptions." Further, he distinguishes "being in love", cathexis which is needed to initiate a relationship, but cannot sustain it. Cathexis seems similar and related to concepts I was already familiar with such as infatuation, limerence and new relationship energy.

He also emphasises that the desire or aspiration to love someone is not the same as actually loving them, and that this is a common relationship dysfunction.


That background out of the way, let us consider two hypothetical people, call them Alice and Bob. In many ways, they're very similar. Like all of us, they want to feel safe, but that feeling has been jeopardised in the past so their need is more acute than usual. Like all of us, they have various issues. Some are obvious, but others are buried deeper. Although they know about them at some level, they're in denial and have difficulty acknowledging the issues to themselves, let alone doing anything constructive towards healing.

Suppose there is a particular issue they have in common. They're both prone to panupunitoplasty, for example. (Panupunitoplasty is a fictitious sin from The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett, hence is safely neutral. Hereafter abbreviated PUP.) And they are each avoidant concerning this problem. Without admitting this to themselves, they fail to love themselves by dealing with the problem. As a result, they also feel unlovable.

One day, Alice and Bob meet. They hit it off immediately and fall deeply in love. Alice notices that Bob is also guilty of PUP, but she welcomes this. It means there is something they can bond over. It means Bob won't object to her PUP. It means, perhaps, that with the safety and support of one another's love they might manage to fix things. Alice doesn't explicitly acknowledge this to herself or to Bob, of course, it's just a subtext in the relationship. Meanwhile, Bob subliminally reasons very similarly about Alice.

The relationship progresses smoothly for a while. However, sooner or later Alice begins to worry that Bob is actually more prone to PUP than she is and less willing to acknowledge it. The disparity could be ever so slight, even imaginary, but it impinges on Alice's conscious mind.

At this point, several things start to go wrong:

  • Alice is at some level convinced she needs Bob's help to address her own tendency towards PUP.
  • She feels such help is unlikely to be forthcoming when Bob's PUP problems are so much greater and he's not willing to recognise them.
  • She feels Bob is validating her PUP when she'd rather he was challenging it.
  • Worse, she feels she can't even talk about her issue with Bob.
  • She feels unsafe and unloved.
  • Reckoning the issue needs confronting for the sake of the relationship, Alice eventually talks to Bob about his PUP habit. But, given the unacknowledged subtexts, she's impatient and unconstructive, therefore also unloving.
  • Bob, meanwhile, recognises Alice's PUP tendencies and therefore thinks she's being hypocritical.
  • He feels unsafe and unloved.
  • Because Bob feels unsafe and unloved, he becomes even less willing to address his PUP issues and clams up tightly about them.
  • He feels Alice is challenging his PUP when he'd rather she was validating it.
  • Now Alice sees Bob as not only unloving, but also as an impediment to her loving herself over the issue. That Alice wasn't actually likely to love herself effectively is irrelevant. Avoidance relies on finding hooks on which to hang excuses for not dealing with something, and this is a useful hook.
  • Because Alice and Bob can barely talk about PUP at all, let alone constructively, things gradually get worse.
  • After a while, Alice gets more desperate. Perhaps, she starts idly threatening to leave Bob if he won't address the issue.
  • Bob, meanwhile, is less willing than ever to acknowledge the issue. He therefore feels impotent in the face of Alice's threats, gradually getting more and more unhappy. He starts to contemplate actually leaving Alice.

To complicate the issue, if Alice and Bob have enough problems, it's entirely possible for this drama to be played out many times over in parallel about a variety of issues. Maybe for some of the issues the Alice and Bob rôles are exchanged.

Another fun way to complicate the issue now that "persecutor" and "victim" rôles have evolved is to introduce Carol, the "rescuer" in the Karpman Drama Triangle.


This is a really unpleasant scenario, but I'm not sure what can be done to prevent or mitigate it.

Obviously, in an ideal world, everyone would acknowledge and address their own failings before trying to get involved in a relationship. Ho ho.

Possibly, people should refrain from getting involved with others who share their issues. If they're honest enough to notice. If they're sufficiently confident someone without those same issues might find them lovable.

Maybe this is the kind of tangled mess a psychotherapist can sort out. It seems unlikely people would submit to therapy before the situation had got bad, though, by which point people have a distorted perception of the problems and are misattributing blame; presumably a psychotherapist worth their salt is used to dealing with such circumstances and unpicking the tangled mess?


In practice what seems to happen is that two people spend many months hurting each other and ending up even more broken than before. )-8

What of the Bible

Sep. 12th, 2014 11:38 pm
gerald_duck: (Duckula)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
In hanging around Evangelical churches, one of the main sticking points appears to be how to approach the Bible.

If one furtles around their websites one finds statements such as "the Bible is God’s authoritative word and is therefore the definitive guide for us in all matters of faith and conduct" or "God’s written word, the Bible, is true and tells us how to know God and live for him". Those words "authoritative", "definitive", "true" encompass several related concepts.

In talking about this issue with various Christians I've encountered quite a few issues that can potentially be considered independently. It's possible to decompose the beliefs quite a long way:
  • It was according to God's will that the Bible be created.
  • No other scripture was similarly willed by God.
  • The process by which it was created ran entirely according to God's will.
  • We now have available to us the text so created.
  • We know which of the various early manuscripts is that text.
  • We know which books and verses to include.
  • We know which books and verses to exclude.
  • If necessary, we have access to an accurate translation into language we understand.
  • Things written in the Bible remain relevant to us now.
  • Things written in the Bible remain comprehensible to us now.
  • The Bible does not mislead concerning salvation.
  • The Bible's contents are sufficient for salvation.
  • The Bible's contents are necessary for salvation.
  • There is no other equivalent way to learn about salvation.
  • The Bible does not mislead concerning morality.
  • The Bible gives sufficient moral guidance.
  • The Bible's contents are necessary moral guidance.
  • Nothing else communicates that moral guidance as effectively.
  • Everything the Bible says is meaningful.
  • Everything the Bible says is exactly true.
  • It is essential that we know everything that is written in the Bible.
  • Nothing we can know from the Bible can be better apprehended in any other way.
  • It is unimportant that we know anything that is not written in the Bible.

I've tried to include so many views in the list that everyone reading this will agree that at least some of them are, to put it mildly, an obvious stretch.

Conversely, anyone who accepts that there is (in some sense) a God who has (in some sense) a plan and all that happens is (in some sense) according to that plan, has to agree that it is (in some sense) according to God's plan that the Bible should exist.

Trouble is, unless one adopts a stance that approaches ditheism it is also according to God's plan that The Satanic Bible should exist.

The Bible is clearly a compilation that contains some very important works. I recognised the value of a lot of it even before being Christian, and rather more of it seems relevant now. While a Christian would have to be very careful in dismissing any part of it out of hand, I've yet to see any reason beyond some people's say-so why any particular tome now available to us has to be treated as utterly authoritative. I'm not even sure one can be treated as utterly authoritative.

Thus far, on this topic, God has remained silent. Normally, that means He wants me to realise something important about my way of thinking, or work something out for myself.