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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Links - 15th August 2015

The obsession with sexual harassment is turning the 21st-century workplace into an emotional deadzone – Telegraph Blogs - "Apparently the best way to avoid being accused of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace is to turn yourself into an emotional cripple who never says anything nice or complimentary, far less cheeky, to your colleagues... Older people must be especially careful in the workplace, because apparently their preferred terms of endearment – love, darling, sweetheart – are criminally archaic. The Independent says it is problematic to behave in an “avuncular manner” in the workplace. An expert tells the paper that older workers should not use old-fashioned terms like “love” unless they would be comfortable with being called “grandpa” or “village elder”. But isn’t this just the petty policing of the kind of lingo used largely by working-class people of a certain age? In one of my old workplaces, the older men uniformly referred to every young woman as “sweetheart” and every young man, including me, as “son”. It was nice. It made a rather stressful workplace environment feel more familial and pleasant. Little did I know that I and everyone else were actually being talked down to by patronising letches. Also, you should never discuss celebrities’ sex lives at work, because others might find it offensive. You should distance yourself from flirtatious workmates, even if that makes you seem like an “officious, stuck-in-the-mud, Billy no-mates”. And you must never, ever try to get into a sexual relationship with a workmate... The problem with such stifling, emotion-squishing codes of conduct is that they turn the 21st-century workplace into an emotional deadzone, bereft of niceness and pleasantries and even compliments... One of the things that makes work more bearable for millions of people is the camaraderie they build up with their colleagues, which they often do through speaking to each other in a free and relaxed manner that is not overseen by their boring managers or HR busybodies. In turning the workplace into a moral minefield where no one can ever truly chill out, we aren’t really combatting rare instances of serious sexual harassment – we’re just alienating workers from each other and turning the workplace into a more soul-destroying arena than it needs to be."

Freakonomics » Aziz Ansari Needs Another Toothbrush: A New Freakonomics Radio Episode - "That study is from the thirties in Philadelphia and it was like, yeah one out of twelve people will marry someone in the same building. Eighty-something percent, it was the same city. One out of three it was like within a five-block radius. And it was really startling. And you just think about it now and it’s like, no one marries someone from the same city. You, like, meet people throughout your whole life that are from different parts of the world, and you go to college. And that change was something that was actually a bigger change than the technology or anything. Just overall change in what used to be called the “companionate” marriage to the “soul mate” marriage. The companionate marriage is pretty close to an arranged marriage... in 1967 there was this study they did where they found seventy-six percent of women said they would marry someone that they are not romantically in love with... if I could throw out the Internet as well, that’d be great. I never read anything. I’ve never read all these novels that are like these beautiful stories that have continued to have a resonance with people for so many generations, like beautiful works of art that I could read at any point. But instead, I choose not to read them. And I just read the Internet. Constantly. And hear about who said a racial slur or look at a photo of what Ludacris did last weekend. You know, just useless stuff. It’s like, I read the Internet so much I feel like I’m on page a million of the worst book ever. And I just won’t stop reading it. For some reason it’s so addictive."

Men don't get it: Japan's diversity perception gap - "Do men and women have equal career opportunities in Japanese workplaces? Sixty-seven percent of men said yes, while only 51% of women agreed, showing a large gap in Japanese perceptions of gender diversity... When asked whether equally capable male and female colleagues are paid the same, 72% of men said yes, while 62% of women agreed, again, a significant difference."
Actually I find it significant that a majority of women think there's gender equality

Global Attitudes on Materialism, Finances and Family - "Those most likely to agree they feel under a lot of pressure to be successful and make money are from China (68%), South Africa (66%), Russia (66%), India (60%), Turkey (53%) and South Korea (52%) – the emerging economies. On the flip side, those least likely to feel this pressure for financial success are from Italy (25%), Sweden (26%), Japan (29%), France (33%), Belgium (36%), Spain (36%) and Great Britain (39%) – the traditionally developed nations. Similarly, those from China (71%), India (58%), Turkey (57%), Brazil (48%) and South Korea (45%) are most likely to measure their success by what they own while those from Sweden (7%), Spain (15%), Great Britain (16%), Canada (20%), the United States (21%) and Italy (22%) are least likely to do so.
More evidence that Chinese are very materialistic
Maybe Fight Club should've been set in China

Young people less tolerant and more ignorant of other religions, poll suggests - Telegraph - "People in their late teens and early 20s were significantly less open to children born to parents from different religious backgrounds being brought up to understand both faiths than those in their 50s and 60s. They were also less likely to be aware of the common origins of the three Abrahamic faiths despite citing religious misunderstanding as the major cause of conflict in the world, ahead of economic hardship, natural disasters, food shortages and environmental crises."

In praise of cynicism - "The cynic would surely question the way in which the world is divided into optimists and pessimists. Optimism has various dimensions, and just because some people take a dim view of human nature and some future probabilities, that does not mean they are hardcore pessimists who believe things can only get worse. Cynics refuse to be typecast as Jeremiahs. They are realists who know that the world is not the sun-kissed fantasy peddled by positive-thinking gurus and shysters. Indeed, the greatest irony of all is that many of the people promoting optimism are unwittingly feeding a view of human nature that is cynical in the very worst sense"

[GPGT]: PAP IBs are having a civil war now! - www.hardwarezone.com.sg - "Basically, Bryan Ti supports PAP but condemns pack behaviour whereby IBs resort to smears and attacks on pro opposition sites. He also disapproves of ministers, MPs and PAP members behaving in such a way. A few years back, Bryan Ti had previously sexposed the facebook group "My Compass" with screenshots, making him the enemy of PAP IB leader Jason Chua Chin Seng."

Ex-Samsui woman touched by SG50 Slim Fit bust enhancement ad | New Nation - "“I am very proud that Slim Fit is using the nation-building legacy of me and my sisters to promote their bust enhancement services.” “I hope that Singaporean women everywhere will think of how far Singapore has come when they look at their breasts. As Singapore continues to develop, their bust lines will grow like our nation’s prosperity.” Ng added that she was going to call Slim Fit right after the interview was over. “This is what I spent my youth slaving away on construction sites day after day for”, said Ng, struggling to hold back tears. “I have earned this.”"

The Joy Of Hunting Without The Killing - tribunedigital-chicagotribune - ""many hunters don`t fit the stereotype at all. Many of them I have found to be caring people. They tell me that they like to hunt because they enjoy being outdoors having good times with their friends --and that if an animal comes along, they feel obligated to shoot it. But they tell me that they get no thrill out of doing the actual killing... no hunter I have ever talked with admitted the killing aspect to be a joy of hunting. The reasons most hunters cite are: saving animals from starving through the winter; hunting for food; getting back to nature; the skill needed in stalking the prey and in the aim required to kill it; an excuse for the`boys` to get together; and tradition"

Should Oscar Pistorius's Prosthetic Legs Disqualify Him from the Olympics? - "The question seems preposterous. How could someone without lower legs possibly have an advantage over athletes with natural legs? The debate took a scientific turn in 2007 when a German team reported that Pistorius used 25 percent less energy than natural runners. The conclusion was tied to the unusual prosthetic made by an Icelandic company called Össur... other researchers have other theories about a possible advantage. Because Pistorius's Cheetah's don't tire, his lower leg stays springy throughout the entire race. For most 400-meter runners the second half of the race is where the real battle happens. Jim Matin, a researcher at the University of Utah, says that the lower leg is what weakens and slows runners. Martin thinks that if Pistorius ran in a competitive 600-meter race, Pistorius could set the world record."

The sheer joy of hunting - "The sheer joy of hunting comes from far more than just dressing up in a smart coat and shiny boots and drinking port. It’s the simple pleasure of being out in the field, watching the hounds do what they do best, and enjoying the pure beauty of the sport"

How to expect hawkers to make a decent living? - "NTUC stated that they are judging 40% base on rental and 60% on other criteria. But everyone is not confident at tendering due to the minimum price set for every stall. For instance fishball noodles at $2.70. On the papers, they talk about attracting quality hawkers. Do you actually think that a quality hawker will come out with quality food when they use quality ingredients and if the cost of food is so high, how much do you think the profit margin will be? From what I see, many people in SG are paying for prices in shopping malls & paid $$$ for a coffee or a bowl of ramen, yet moan about prices of Hawker food.... What kind of living am I going to make myself if the profit margin is so low? The heritage is dying. If they want young gen to come in, give them a better profit. If their food is good, they make a lot of money, they deserve it."

Amnesty International says prostitution is a human right – but it's wrong | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian
Hearteningly most comments slam this
Comments: "This is not science. Presumably men who use male prostitutes hate men? And women who use male prostitutes aren't aware of their humanity, or some such nonsense?"
"So presumably then, because people get trafficked to work as maids in central London, where they are locked up and kept prisoner without passports, all work as maids should be made illegal. Otherwise we would be condoning people trafficking."
"And perhaps clothing should be banned because of the terrible work conditions and sometimes enslavement of so many adults and children making clothes in poor countries."
"According to the logic of the writer here, we should make human employment in any form illegal, since so many of those employed are exploited and coerced. Why are a person's hands or a person's back less sacred than their genitals? No one gives a damn about exploiting the shit out of a person's hands or their back."
"I know every newspaper has it's own stance when discussing any issue. But this article is so biased it didn't even get a quote from Amnesty for them to justify their position... I would like less biased articles in future, otherwise the Guardian will be head down the road that Fox News has so blatantly pioneered."
"This is not an article, it's an entirely one-sided and malevolent screed. The first sentence says it all: "Has Amnesty International been hijacked by proponents of the global sex trade?" How can anybody take it seriously after that?"
"Honestly, I reckon if you wandered around Sydney or London and started offering people a month's salary to suck you off, a lot of them would say yes."
""Selling your body is a human right? Please! Just the sound of it makes me cringe. It should be abolished."
"I'm sure there's things you do that would make many others cringe. I'm against grammatical errors, myself.""
"Today people freely choose to work on sugar and cotton plantations that is their right even though it was once done by slaves. It isn't the job, but the employment rights that are important."
"I work for food, it's not really consentual, but I get around that by making snarky comments here"
"So when we discuss abortion, it's perfectly okay to say "My body, my choice", but it's not okay to say the same thing about prostitution?"

On Colleges being more responsive to students' complaints (re: Commencement Disinvitations)

In a discussion on I'm a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me (Vox), I was asked for non-anecdotal evidence that college administrations are now more responsive to students' complaints (typically out of liberal/social justice concerns) than in the past.

We can see that Commencement Disinvitation Episodes documented by FIRE have been rising in recent years as students grow more sensitive to offence.

2000: 6 disinvitation attempts
2001: 4
2002: 10
2003: 10
2004: 7
2005: 13
2006: 10
2007: 9
2008: 13
2009: 23
2010: 16
2011: 19
2012: 17
2013: 29
2014: 16

2014 only has 5 months of data so do note that corrected for the full year figures one would assume there were 38 disinvitation attempts in 2014 - truly a record.

So we can conclude that there has indeed been an increase in Commencement Speaker Disinvitation Attempts since 2009.


"According to the Department of Education, the number of racial complaints reported on college campuses has increased from 555 in 2009 to 939 last year."

Of course this could be due to more racism, but why would we think there was an increase in racism?

Marital Advice

A woman goes to the Doctor, worried about her husband's temper.

The Doctor asks: "What's the problem?

The woman says: "Doctor, I don't know what to do. Every day my husband seems to lose his temper for no reason, and it scares me."

The Doctor says: "I have a cure for that. When it seems that your husband is getting angry, just take a glass of water and start swishing it in your mouth. Just swish and swish but don't swallow it until he either leaves the room or goes to bed and falls asleep." ​

Two weeks later the woman comes back to the doctor, looking fresh and reborn.

The woman says: "Doctor that was a brilliant idea! Every time my husband started losing it, I swished with water. I swished and swished, and he calmed right down! How does a glass of water do that?"

The Doctor says: "The water itself does nothing. It's keeping your mouth shut that does the trick...."

Friday, August 14, 2015

Links - 14th August 2015

Empty on Orchard Road: Singapore's malls grapple with shifting consumer trends - "Many malls in the area feature fast-fashion tenants in prominent locations, but there is little -- if any -- coherence in how the shops are placed in relation to one another. In one shopping mall, for instance, a women's lingerie shop sits next to a golf store, clearly reflecting the lack of strategic thinking based on knowledge of customer habits and movements... "Developers' thinking has put consumers off," said a businessman previously engaged in operating commercial complexes in Japan. When selecting tenants, property developers tend to focus on immediate income from rent. Too often, this approach results in a nondescript mall that fails to excite shoppers' interest. A number of such facilities have cropped up along Orchard Road, and almost all of them have been struggling to bring in customers."

'Otaku' on alert: Why cosplay fans fear the TPP - "the pact, if implemented, would strengthen the protection of intellectual property to such a degree that merely dressing up as Sailor Moon could potentially land someone in jail."

Life in Japan: The odd allure of being kicked and berated - "Hitomi Nogata, a 24-year-old professional kickboxer, has a unique side job. She offers a service that involves literally giving people a hard kick in the caboose. One person seeking her services recently was Akira Muramoto, the 22-year-old representative of a Tokyo venture company. As he stood in front of her, Nogata lifted her muscular right leg and said, "Here I go!" before unleashing a monster kick to Muramoto's buttocks. "Ouch!" he shouted. "That hurt so much!"... On TV Tokyo, a program called "I Want To Be Scolded By Risa Yoshiki" has generated considerable buzz since its launch in August last year. In the show, Yoshiki, a female TV celebrity, yells at TV audiences through a camera lens, tossing out such admonishments as, "Who do you think you are?"... "You rarely get an earful from your boss after you enter your 30s," he said. "So you seldom have someone point out your shortcomings objectively." Yoshiki's schtick is to be angry about various things she sees as being wrong with society."

Japan tourism: Visitors say 'meh' to sushi ... so what? - "Freeplus asked Thai tourists visiting Japan what food they found most delicious. Sushi? Sashimi? It turns out that Thais like yakiniku, the Japanese take on Korean barbecued meat. But surely Japan's soba buckwheat noodles go down well with Thais? Nope. "Thai noodles taste a lot better," said one to-the-point tourist. Asked about sushi, the man was unenthusiastic: "I usually eat a lot of rice in Thailand."... A young Thai man said he had most enjoyed playing video games in a Tokyo arcade. Indian tourists hardly eat Japanese food; they tend to prefer their own cuisine. About 40% of Thai visitors dislike hot springs. Visitors from Vietnam shun tempura and dislike sleeping on tatami. "If caterpillars, which are popular in Africa, were always served to [Japanese visitors], they would not enjoy it," Suda said. "It's the same in Japan. Many here think foreigners want to eat Japanese food all the time, but that is not the case. There is no need to always serve sushi and tempura to foreign tourists in Japan.""

Trouble at the top of the food chain - "How badly do restaurants want to be featured by food bloggers? Enough to pay four-figure sums for a well-known “influencer” to mention them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, it seems. No longer content to just accept invitations to hosted meals, bloggers with large followings now charge enough to make for a very profitable sideline or full-time career. Brad Lau – also known as Ladyironchef and perhaps the best known food blogger with 600,000 followers on Instagram alone – declined to be interviewed for this article, but is known to charge a fee for showing up at a media tasting and more for an actual article. One F&B operator told The Business Times that it paid him S$3,800 recently to promote its restaurant. It also paid Daniel Ang of DanielFoodDiary (166,000 Instagram followers) S$2,300; Seth Lui (9,965 Instagram followers), charges “between S$1,000 and S$10,000” for advertorials. Maureen Ow, a former journalist who blogs under the moniker Miss Tam Chiak, keeps her fees under S$2,000. These so-called A-list bloggers command page views of a million or more. Derrick Tan of SGFood on Foot, who gets 70,000 page views, has his fee starting at S$500... Aun Koh of food blog Chubby Hubby fame, claims that he does not accept any invitations for tastings, “because once you do, no matter what anyone says, you owe them something. There’s no such thing as a free lunch”... Most bloggers label sponsored posts and advertorials as such, but some don’t feel the need to make it unequivocal when they attend invited tastings... “It’s (the food media circus) gotten to the point where food is no longer first. It’s all about concepts now""

A New Study Tries To Determine What a 'Tolerant' City Looks Like - "The main factor associated with intolerance is the separation, or so-called “fractionalization,” of cities along religious, ethnic, and linguistic lines. (The researchers use measures of fractionalization originally developed by Harvard economist Alberto Alesina.) Places with high levels of linguistic fractionalization—that is, cities where residents speak many different languages—are less tolerant of difference: Every unit increase in linguistic fractionalization leads to a moderate decrease in tolerance. As the researchers note: “This means the lack of a dominant cultural language may create more dissension within a society.” Similarly, they find places with higher levels of religious fractionalization—where people have many different religious beliefs—also have lower levels of tolerance of threat. Even more interestingly, they found cities with larger populations tend to be less tolerant of difference."

(22) Social Capital and Ethnic Tolerance: The Opposing Effects of Diversity and Competition. - "First, strong interethnic ties have differential effects on tolerance depending on one’s own ethnicity. Second, occupational network diversity is linked with both increased and decreased interethnic tolerance, depending on the status of the positions the people in one’s network hold. Finally, we show that participation in voluntary associations has variable effects depending on the type of association. Our evidence suggests that top-down associations have little impact on tolerance, while bottom-up associations have important effects. Taken together, our results suggest that tolerance is most likely cultivated through modes of interaction characterized by cooperation and diversity of participants"

America's tolerance dilemma - LA Times - "census data and election results reveal that Americans have moved into communities that are more homogeneously partisan, with both conservatives and progressives preferring to avoid living near people who hold opposing views. As Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow has documented, even in the religious realm, the faithful today are willing to travel out of their way in search of a congregation that embraces their preferred liturgy. In many cases, we've been fooled into presuming that modernity serves only to broaden our horizons because people with different perspectives are now only a few mouse clicks away. But that assumption conflates the ability to connect with the same predilection... the magic of the melting pot wasn't simply the fact of its jumble; it was that various groups were compelled to interact, share ideas, discuss their differences and learn from their disagreements."

Change name of Jalan Sehala - Letters | The Star Online - "I MET a tourist recently who asked if Jalan Sehala is the longest road in the city. He was taken aback when I explained that it meant one-way street and not one-way road."

The Real Reason U.S. Gas Is So Cheap Is Americans Don't Pay the True Cost of Driving - "America's gas taxes are too low to offset what economists call the "externalities" of driving. Don't let the word spook you; all it means is that driving creates all sorts of negative social impacts that aren't being compensated for: personal time and work productivity lost to traffic congestion, lives lost to car crashes, and health risks created by air pollution, to name just a few. When Delucchi tallied up these costs, at least as they existed for 1991 driving patterns, he estimated them at upwards of $3.3 trillion a year... any gas tax that fully corrected for the social costs of car reliance would upend life as Americans know it... Michael Specter of the New Yorker may have put it best when he likened cheap gas to "an industrial form of crack": impossible to quit, no matter the damage it causes."

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman on the biggest lie employers tell employees - ""The biggest lie is that the employment relationship is like family"... "You don't fire your kid because of bad grades"... But it's not just employers who lie. Prospective employees do, too. "They know that employers want loyalty," Hoffman says. "They know they want to hear, 'Oh, I plan on working here for the rest of my career.' But most employees recognize that career progression probably requires eventually moving to another company. But that never comes up"... "I think you can learn some useful things from an interview," Hoffman says. "You just have to be clear about what it is you're actually trying to learn. I think you can learn about chemistry and fit. I think you can learn about a person's immediate response to a challenge. But if you told me, 'Pick one — you could either get references or an interview,' I would pick references every day of the week"... Hoffman's background isn't typical. He didn't study computer science or get an MBA. He studied philosophy. And he thinks he's better off for it... "We live in a probabilistic universe, and we tend to think in determinist ways. If A is data-driven and I think I have that data, how certain am I that I have that data? What could I discover that might actually tell me that that data is formulated wrongly? When you dig into it, most of your arguments are actually probabilistic. They're not certain, even when you have data. You're really trying to get a sense of whether you have a reasonable bet on the probability.""

3M $3 Million Behind Bulletproof Glass Challenge Real? - "Recently there has been a picture being shared on social media which shows a bus stop advertizement with a glass case containing what purports to be $3 million dollars. The story goes that 3M is so confident about the strength of its bulletproof glass that it has put out a challenge that if anyone can break the case open the money is theirs for the taking"

#96krock - 3 Farmers Arrested in Wales for Running “Sheep Brothel”

World Peace Begins in the Bedroom - “You gotta remember, Humphrey, marriage is a crapshoot,” he said. “We all find it difficult. But one thing’s for sure – and if you get this right everything starts falling into place – world peace begins in the bedroom.”

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS133 - Sean Carroll on "The Many Worlds Interpretation is probably correct" - "at the end of the day, I think that we get trained as scientists to be extremely instrumental. We want to solve the problem. We want to predict a number. We want to say what's going to happen if you poke the system in a certain way -- which is fine, but I don't think we should then mistake that instrumental task for our original motivation. No 12-year-old girl becomes fascinated by physics because she says, "Someday I want to be able to predict the outcome of where photons are going to make marks on a photographic plate"... "I want to understand how the world works." You don't want to say, "I want to make observational predictions." They want to figure out how reality operates. That's the difference. I think that everyone gets excited about science because it's supposed to be satisfying our curiosity about how things work, not just a task we have been given to make a prediction about a certain experimental outcome."

The Coddling of the American Mind (How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus)

How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus

"A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke...

Some recent campus actions border on the surreal. In April, at Brandeis University, the Asian American student association sought to raise awareness of microaggressions against Asians through an installation on the steps of an academic hall. The installation gave examples of microaggressions such as “Aren’t you supposed to be good at math?” and “I’m colorblind! I don’t see race.” But a backlash arose among other Asian American students, who felt that the display itself was a microaggression. The association removed the installation, and its president wrote an e-mail to the entire student body apologizing to anyone who was “triggered or hurt by the content of the microaggressions.”

This new climate is slowly being institutionalized, and is affecting what can be said in the classroom, even as a basis for discussion. During the 2014–15 school year, for instance, the deans and department chairs at the 10 University of California system schools were presented by administrators at faculty leader-training sessions with examples of microaggressions. The list of offensive statements included: “America is the land of opportunity” and “I believe the most qualified person should get the job”...

The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into “safe spaces” where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable. And more than the last, this movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness. It is creating a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse...

What are the effects of this new protectiveness on the students themselves? Does it benefit the people it is supposed to help? What exactly are students learning when they spend four years or more in a community that polices unintentional slights, places warning labels on works of classic literature, and in many other ways conveys the sense that words can be forms of violence that require strict control by campus authorities, who are expected to act as both protectors and prosecutors?

There’s a saying common in education circles: Don’t teach students what to think; teach them how to think... But vindictive protectiveness teaches students to think in a very different way. It prepares them poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong. The harm may be more immediate, too. A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically...

In a variety of ways, children born after 1980—the Millennials—got a consistent message from adults: life is dangerous, but adults will do everything in their power to protect you from harm, not just from strangers but from one another as well.

These same children grew up in a culture that was (and still is) becoming more politically polarized. Republicans and Democrats have never particularly liked each other, but survey data going back to the 1970s show that on average, their mutual dislike used to be surprisingly mild. Negative feelings have grown steadily stronger, however, particularly since the early 2000s. Political scientists call this process “affective partisan polarization,” and it is a very serious problem for any democracy. As each side increasingly demonizes the other, compromise becomes more difficult. A recent study shows that implicit or unconscious biases are now at least as strong across political parties as they are across races.

So it’s not hard to imagine why students arriving on campus today might be more desirous of protection and more hostile toward ideological opponents than in generations past. This hostility, and the self-righteousness fueled by strong partisan emotions, can be expected to add force to any moral crusade. A principle of moral psychology is that “morality binds and blinds.” Part of what we do when we make moral judgments is express allegiance to a team. But that can interfere with our ability to think critically. Acknowledging that the other side’s viewpoint has any merit is risky—your teammates may see you as a traitor...

Rates of mental illness in young adults have been rising, both on campus and off, in recent decades. Some portion of the increase is surely due to better diagnosis and greater willingness to seek help, but most experts seem to agree that some portion of the trend is real. Nearly all of the campus mental-health directors surveyed in 2013 by the American College Counseling Association reported that the number of students with severe psychological problems was rising at their schools. The rate of emotional distress reported by students themselves is also high, and rising. In a 2014 survey by the American College Health Association, 54 percent of college students surveyed said that they had “felt overwhelming anxiety” in the past 12 months, up from 49 percent in the same survey just five years earlier. Students seem to be reporting more emotional crises; many seem fragile, and this has surely changed the way university faculty and administrators interact with them. The question is whether some of those changes might be doing more harm than good...

Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches good critical-thinking skills, the sort that educators have striven for so long to impart. By almost any definition, critical thinking requires grounding one’s beliefs in evidence rather than in emotion or desire, and learning how to search for and evaluate evidence that might contradict one’s initial hypothesis. But does campus life today foster critical thinking? Or does it coax students to think in more-distorted ways?

Let’s look at recent trends in higher education in light of the distortions that cognitive behavioral therapy identifies. We will draw the names and descriptions of these distortions from David D. Burns’s popular book Feeling Good, as well as from the second edition of Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders, by Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J. F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn.

Higher Education’s Embrace of “Emotional Reasoning”

Emotional reasoning dominates many campus debates and discussions. A claim that someone’s words are “offensive” is not just an expression of one’s own subjective feeling of offendedness. It is, rather, a public charge that the speaker has done something objectively wrong. It is a demand that the speaker apologize or be punished by some authority for committing an offense.

There have always been some people who believe they have a right not to be offended. Yet throughout American history—from the Victorian era to the free-speech activism of the 1960s and ’70s—radicals have pushed boundaries and mocked prevailing sensibilities...

Among the most famous early examples was the so-called water-buffalo incident at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1993, the university charged an Israeli-born student with racial harassment after he yelled “Shut up, you water buffalo!” to a crowd of black sorority women that was making noise at night outside his dorm-room window. Many scholars and pundits at the time could not see how the term water buffalo (a rough translation of a Hebrew insult for a thoughtless or rowdy person) was a racial slur against African Americans, and as a result, the case became international news.

Claims of a right not to be offended have continued to arise since then, and universities have continued to privilege them. In a particularly egregious 2008 case, for instance, Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis found a white student guilty of racial harassment for reading a book titled Notre Dame vs. the Klan. The book honored student opposition to the Ku Klux Klan when it marched on Notre Dame in 1924. Nonetheless, the picture of a Klan rally on the book’s cover offended at least one of the student’s co-workers (he was a janitor as well as a student), and that was enough for a guilty finding by the university’s Affirmative Action Office.

These examples may seem extreme, but the reasoning behind them has become more commonplace on campus in recent years. Last year, at the University of St. Thomas, in Minnesota, an event called Hump Day, which would have allowed people to pet a camel, was abruptly canceled. Students had created a Facebook group where they protested the event for animal cruelty, for being a waste of money, and for being insensitive to people from the Middle East. The inspiration for the camel had almost certainly come from a popular TV commercial in which a camel saunters around an office on a Wednesday, celebrating “hump day”; it was devoid of any reference to Middle Eastern peoples. Nevertheless, the group organizing the event announced on its Facebook page that the event would be canceled because the “program [was] dividing people and would make for an uncomfortable and possibly unsafe environment.”

Because there is a broad ban in academic circles on “blaming the victim,” it is generally considered unacceptable to question the reasonableness (let alone the sincerity) of someone’s emotional state, particularly if those emotions are linked to one’s group identity. The thin argument “I’m offended” becomes an unbeatable trump card. This leads to what Jonathan Rauch, a contributing editor at this magazine, calls the “offendedness sweepstakes,” in which opposing parties use claims of offense as cudgels. In the process, the bar for what we consider unacceptable speech is lowered further and further...

Everyone is supposed to rely upon his or her own subjective feelings to decide whether a comment by a professor or a fellow student is unwelcome, and therefore grounds for a harassment claim. Emotional reasoning is now accepted as evidence.

If our universities are teaching students that their emotions can be used effectively as weapons—or at least as evidence in administrative proceedings—then they are teaching students to nurture a kind of hypersensitivity that will lead them into countless drawn-out conflicts in college and beyond. Schools may be training students in thinking styles that will damage their careers and friendships, along with their mental health.

Fortune-Telling and Trigger Warnings

It’s hard to imagine how novels illustrating classism and privilege could provoke or reactivate the kind of terror that is typically implicated in PTSD. Rather, trigger warnings are sometimes demanded for a long list of ideas and attitudes that some students find politically offensive, in the name of preventing other students from being harmed. This is an example of what psychologists call “motivated reasoning”—we spontaneously generate arguments for conclusions we want to support. Once you find something hateful, it is easy to argue that exposure to the hateful thing could traumatize some other people. You believe that you know how others will react, and that their reaction could be devastating. Preventing that devastation becomes a moral obligation for the whole community. Books for which students have called publicly for trigger warnings within the past couple of years include Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (at Rutgers, for “suicidal inclinations”) and Ovid’s Metamorphoses (at Columbia, for sexual assault)...

There is a deeper problem with trigger warnings. According to the most-basic tenets of psychology, the very idea of helping people with anxiety disorders avoid the things they fear is misguided. A person who is trapped in an elevator during a power outage may panic and think she is going to die. That frightening experience can change neural connections in her amygdala, leading to an elevator phobia. If you want this woman to retain her fear for life, you should help her avoid elevators.

But if you want to help her return to normalcy, you should take your cues from Ivan Pavlov and guide her through a process known as exposure therapy. You might start by asking the woman to merely look at an elevator from a distance—standing in a building lobby, perhaps—until her apprehension begins to subside. If nothing bad happens while she’s standing in the lobby—if the fear is not “reinforced”—then she will begin to learn a new association: elevators are not dangerous. (This reduction in fear during exposure is called habituation.) Then, on subsequent days, you might ask her to get closer, and on later days to push the call button, and eventually to step in and go up one floor. This is how the amygdala can get rewired again to associate a previously feared situation with safety or normalcy.

Students who call for trigger warnings may be correct that some of their peers are harboring memories of trauma that could be reactivated by course readings. But they are wrong to try to prevent such reactivations. Students with PTSD should of course get treatment, but they should not try to avoid normal life, with its many opportunities for habituation. Classroom discussions are safe places to be exposed to incidental reminders of trauma (such as the word violate). A discussion of violence is unlikely to be followed by actual violence, so it is a good way to help students change the associations that are causing them discomfort. And they’d better get their habituation done in college, because the world beyond college will be far less willing to accommodate requests for trigger warnings and opt-outs.

The expansive use of trigger warnings may also foster unhealthy mental habits in the vastly larger group of students who do not suffer from PTSD or other anxiety disorders. People acquire their fears not just from their own past experiences, but from social learning as well. If everyone around you acts as though something is dangerous—elevators, certain neighborhoods, novels depicting racism—then you are at risk of acquiring that fear too. The psychiatrist Sarah Roff pointed this out last year in an online article for The Chronicle of Higher Education. “One of my biggest concerns about trigger warnings,” Roff wrote, “is that they will apply not just to those who have experienced trauma, but to all students, creating an atmosphere in which they are encouraged to believe that there is something dangerous or damaging about discussing difficult aspects of our history.”

In an article published last year by Inside Higher Ed, seven humanities professors wrote that the trigger-warning movement was “already having a chilling effect on [their] teaching and pedagogy.” They reported their colleagues’ receiving “phone calls from deans and other administrators investigating student complaints that they have included ‘triggering’ material in their courses, with or without warnings.” A trigger warning, they wrote, “serves as a guarantee that students will not experience unexpected discomfort and implies that if they do, a contract has been broken.” When students come to expect trigger warnings for any material that makes them uncomfortable, the easiest way for faculty to stay out of trouble is to avoid material that might upset the most sensitive student in the class.

Magnification, Labeling, and Microaggressions

In 2013, a student group at UCLA staged a sit-in during a class taught by Val Rust, an education professor. The group read a letter aloud expressing their concerns about the campus’s hostility toward students of color. Although Rust was not explicitly named, the group quite clearly criticized his teaching as microaggressive. In the course of correcting his students’ grammar and spelling, Rust had noted that a student had wrongly capitalized the first letter of the word indigenous. Lowercasing the capital I was an insult to the student and her ideology, the group claimed.

[Ed: Keywords - correct grammar, racist]

Even joking about microaggressions can be seen as an aggression, warranting punishment... A group of women later vandalized Mahmood’s doorway with eggs, hot dogs, gum, and notes with messages such as “Everyone hates you, you violent prick.” When speech comes to be seen as a form of violence, vindictive protectiveness can justify a hostile, and perhaps even violent, response.

In March, the student government at Ithaca College, in upstate New York, went so far as to propose the creation of an anonymous microaggression-reporting system. Student sponsors envisioned some form of disciplinary action against “oppressors” engaged in belittling speech. One of the sponsors of the program said that while “not … every instance will require trial or some kind of harsh punishment,” she wanted the program to be “record-keeping but with impact.”...

What are we doing to our students if we encourage them to develop extra-thin skin in the years just before they leave the cocoon of adult protection and enter the workforce? Would they not be better prepared to flourish if we taught them to question their own emotional reactions, and to give people the benefit of the doubt?

Teaching Students to Catastrophize and Have Zero Tolerance

Administrators at Bergen Community College, in New Jersey, suspended Francis Schmidt, a professor, after he posted a picture of his daughter on his Google+ account. The photo showed her in a yoga pose, wearing a T-shirt that read I will take what is mine with fire & blood, a quote from the HBO show Game of Thrones. Schmidt had filed a grievance against the school about two months earlier after being passed over for a sabbatical. The quote was interpreted as a threat by a campus administrator, who received a notification after Schmidt posted the picture; it had been sent, automatically, to a whole group of contacts. According to Schmidt, a Bergen security official present at a subsequent meeting between administrators and Schmidt thought the word fire could refer to AK-47s.

Then there is the eight-year legal saga at Valdosta State University, in Georgia, where a student was expelled for protesting the construction of a parking garage by posting an allegedly “threatening” collage on Facebook. The collage described the proposed structure as a “memorial” parking garage—a joke referring to a claim by the university president that the garage would be part of his legacy. The president interpreted the collage as a threat against his life...

Smart people do, in fact, overreact to innocuous speech, make mountains out of molehills, and seek punishment for anyone whose words make anyone else feel uncomfortable.

Mental Filtering and Disinvitation Season

According to data compiled by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, since 2000, at least 240 campaigns have been launched at U.S. universities to prevent public figures from appearing at campus events; most of them have occurred since 2009...

Should dislike of part of a person’s record disqualify her altogether from sharing her perspectives?

If campus culture conveys the idea that visitors must be pure, with résumés that never offend generally left-leaning campus sensibilities, then higher education will have taken a further step toward intellectual homogeneity and the creation of an environment in which students rarely encounter diverse viewpoints. And universities will have reinforced the belief that it’s okay to filter out the positive. If students graduate believing that they can learn nothing from people they dislike or from those with whom they disagree, we will have done them a great intellectual disservice.

What Can We Do Now?

Attempts to shield students from words, ideas, and people that might cause them emotional discomfort are bad for the students. They are bad for the workplace, which will be mired in unending litigation if student expectations of safety are carried forward. And they are bad for American democracy, which is already paralyzed by worsening partisanship. When the ideas, values, and speech of the other side are seen not just as wrong but as willfully aggressive toward innocent victims, it is hard to imagine the kind of mutual respect, negotiation, and compromise that are needed to make politics a positive-sum game...

Universities should also officially and strongly discourage trigger warnings. They should endorse the American Association of University Professors’ report on these warnings, which notes, “The presumption that students need to be protected rather than challenged in a classroom is at once infantilizing and anti-intellectual.” Professors should be free to use trigger warnings if they choose to do so, but by explicitly discouraging the practice, universities would help fortify the faculty against student requests for such warnings.

Finally, universities should rethink the skills and values they most want to impart to their incoming students. At present, many freshman-orientation programs try to raise student sensitivity to a nearly impossible level... students should also be taught how to live in a world full of potential offenses. Why not teach incoming students how to practice cognitive behavioral therapy? Given high and rising rates of mental illness, this simple step would be among the most humane and supportive things a university could do... a shared vocabulary about reasoning, common distortions, and the appropriate use of evidence to draw conclusions would facilitate critical thinking and real debate. It would also tone down the perpetual state of outrage that seems to engulf some colleges these days, allowing students’ minds to open more widely to new ideas and new people. A greater commitment to formal, public debate on campus—and to the assembly of a more politically diverse faculty—would further serve that goal."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Alvin Tan 陈杰毅 - Not many of you know this, but, in 2003, my...

"Not many of you know this, but, in 2003, my grandfather passed away due to respiratory failure. The day he passed, I was with him the entire day. He refused to go to the hospital and instead wanted to die at home.

As I sent by his bed, he awoke at one point wishing to speak with me. He asked me if I would promise to do one last thing for him before he passed. I tried to stray his thoughts away from such inauspicious things, refusing to accept that his death was near, but he insisted. I gave my word.

He then told me he wanted to orgasm one last time, but, seeing as my grandmother had passed, he knew no one else who could assist him. I was a little taken aback but not nearly as much as I thought I would be. He said all he wanted was a simple handjob to get the job done.

After some deep deliberation, I obliged and began to go to work. As I was stroking his cock, I unwittingly became slightly aroused myself. After about 10 minutes in, he still hadn't climaxed, yet I was at full erect length by now.

I began to undress almost as if in a trance controlled purely by complete arousal. As he was all but immobile, I mounted him sticking his cock deep into my ass. At one point, during intercourse, he let out what seemed to be a gasp/moan.

I assumed he had orgasmed but wasn't entirely sure. I looked up to see his face only to see a still body before me. He had died while I was riding him. The official autopsy report was that he died due to respiratory failure due to some sort of heavy pressure on his chest (I didn't inform them what had happened between me and him).

When I think back on that day, one might think I might feel guilt as to his death, but I don't. I know, even though I may have caused his death, he died in what I assume would not be the worst death. And he'll remain in my prayers, for now and ever..."
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