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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in _wastrel's LiveJournal:

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Saturday, August 3rd, 2013
5:57 pm

It is surprising for me to read here that there has been little research conducted into the impact of masculinity upon gay men (2010, p.105). Sanchez et al. (2010) attribute this gap, in part, to the fact that gay men only make up three per cent or so of the male population (p.105). Further, since gay men are stereotypically perceived to be ‘effeminate’, we are presumably immune from the pursuit of masculine ideals and therefore are not considered to be a research priority (2010, p.105). Wrong. The authors argue that gay men are just as likely as straight men to want to appear all things manly (2010, pp.105-106). This sets up any number of problems, from psychological conflict through to intense hatred for other gay men who are ‘less masculine’ than they should be.

Of all the problems that the ideology and practice of masculinity cause for gay men, I think that self-loathing is by far the most harmful. Gay ‘community’ can be a tough ask, where to get through the front door typically means being white, young, middle-class, professional, buffed, toned, and yes, ‘straight-acting’. That exclusion rules are rigidly enforced within the gay community makes those masculine ideals enforced in the wider community that much more harsh. After all, one of the presumed benefits from membership of an outsider group is the strength that flows from internal solidarity. No such solidarity occurs in the gay community, well at least not here in Sydney. Tensions thus, are not merely linear, point-to-point, but within individuals, within groups and between groups, amongst other variations.

Learning to hate in others what you are yourself is self-evidently, likely to adversely impinge upon your psychological well-being (2010, p.106). I know of so many gay men who absolutely loathe any gay man who they believe to be too showy, too girly, or too gay. That is, men who through their behaviours and attitudes define us in the public eye as contrary to masculine ideals. Gay men who appear feminine, weak, or emotional shame those gay men who invest so much time and energy in ‘covering’, that is, pretending to be straight (2010, p.105). Conflating masculine ideals with strict adherence to heteronormativity poses the impossible challenge for gay men, since none of us can ever achieve the mantle of ‘straight, normal’. It is the cruellest trick, and the reactive side of homophobia that gets so little scrutiny.

By surveying 622 ‘self-identified gay men’ (2010, p.104), Sanchez et al. came up with four main findings:

That masculinity ‘is an important construct for many gay men’;
That ‘many gay men desire romantic partners who appear masculine’;
That ‘on average the gay men [surveyed] wished to be more masculine than they perceived themselves to be’; and
That ‘gay men who place an importance on masculinity, who have trouble being affectionate with other men, and who are immersed in school/work activities may feel negatively about being gay’ (2010, pp.108-109).
Focusing on therapeutic work with gay men, the authors suggest that psychologists might help a gay client ‘see the connection between society’s rigid masculine ideals and his internalized conception of masculinity, and how that that ideal is affecting his well-being’ (2010, p.109). For many gay men, in therapy or not, one of our ongoing tasks is to spot and chuck out all the junk in our lives, starting with that big fat lie that we are something less than manly. That much resistance for better understanding the role of masculinity in the lives of gay men will come from the gay community itself, provides an additional layer of complexity. However, I would agree with Sanchez et al. (2010, pp.109-110), that further research on this subject is important, and necessary…
Sunday, July 7th, 2013
10:18 pm
Already posted this a while back, but let's pretend I'm on "Best of Wastrel" sabbatical for the time being or something. Seems to bear repeating in context.

TEAL'C: Nothing I have done since turning against the Goa'uld will make up for the atrocities I once committed in their name. Somewhere deep inside you, you knew it was wrong. A voice you did not recognize screamed for you to stop. You saw no way out. It was the way things were. They could not be changed. You tried to convince yourself the people you were hurting deserved it. You became numb to their pain and suffering. You learned to shut out the voice speaking against it.
TOMIN: There's always a choice.
TEAL'C: Indeed, there is.
TOMIN: I chose to ignore it.
TEAL'C: Yet you sit here now.
TOMIN: I sit here... and I cannot imagine the day when I will forgive myself.
TEAL'C: Because it will never come. One day, others may try to convince you they have forgiven you. That is more about them than you. For them, imparting forgiveness is a blessing.
TOMIN: How do you go on?
TEAL'C: It is simple. You will never forgive yourself. Accept it. You hurt others. Many others. That cannot be undone. You will never find personal retribution. But your life does not have to end. That which is right, just, and true can still prevail. If you do not fight for what you believe in, all may be lost for everyone else. But do not fight for yourself, fight for others — others that may be saved through your effort. That is the least you can do.

Current Mood: remorseful
Saturday, July 6th, 2013
10:49 pm
of interest
Someone recently posted in response to a thread following someone's Facebook entry about a feminine-looking guy "I need a man to look like a MAN."
Someone replied "That's a good way to make someone who doesn't conform to traditional stereotypes of masculinity... feel bad."
Someone else added "I'm not so egotistical as to assume that the purpose of other people's appearance is to cater to my aesthetic standards."
Apparently these are still things that some people will think in response to statements like these, I'm relieved to be reminded of.

Current Mood: processing
3:06 pm
via _toxicity_

"You own everything that happened to you.
Tell your stories.
If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better."

- Anne Lamott
Friday, July 5th, 2013
10:35 pm
spy vs spy
"I think women are hiding more vital secrets than men." - Faye Valentine, Cowboy Bebop

"What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets!" - Dracula, Castlevania

It never occurred to me to analyze Burn Notice from the perspective of gender dynamics until just recently, but it seems like there's potential there. The way men are taught to repress their emotions, to keep their guard up at all times, to hide all of their weaknesses from everyone, never to reveal anything about themselves to others lest it be used against them somehow... These are the forces that Madeleine, when she wants to be able to maintain emotional contact with her son in spite of the dangerous situations he's in, and Fiona, when she tries to convince Michael to drop out of the spy trade so that they can have a life together for a while, are fighting against. On some level, all men behave as though they're playing the spy game at most times, as though their feelings were some kind of secret mission plans that mustn't be allowed to fall into the wrong hands or all will be lost. A woman who wants to talk about her feelings is "a security risk". It just so happens that in this specific case Michael is in fact literally a spy! Which doesn't negate the underlying conflict between different approaches, but rather brings it to the forefront and makes it even more emphasized somehow.

I found this interesting.
Sunday, March 24th, 2013
4:46 am
character idea: Tandem
"I have to speculate that God himself did make us into corresponding shapes like puzzle pieces from the clay..."
(Such Great Heights, The Postal Service)

"I sometimes think that I'm too many people, too many people, too many people..."
(Too Many People, Pet Shop Boys)

"One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish"
(Dr Seuss)

"We are as one, we are as one!" (Seven of Nine, Voyager, inebriated)

You look at Tandem and you see what seems to be two 6’ striped anthropomorphic fish sitting or standing next to each other, a zebra fish and a rainbow fish. The zebra fish’s left eye is red and his right eye is blue whereas the rainbow fish’s left eye is white and his right eye is black, and the zebra fish is wearing purple pants whereas the rainbow fish is wearing grey pants. Aside from their different coloring, though, their features look exactly alike, like a re-colored enemy sprite from an old video game. Side by side they’re opaque, but they look translucent whenever part of one of them is in front of the other, you can always distinguish the other behind the one.

You notice they’re never completely apart, sitting arm-in-arm drinking from the same glass and holding hands when they walk, one swinging his right arm and the other his left arm alternately as though one person was balancing his steps. While they usually take turns answering when spoken to so as not to disorient others, they fail to catch themselves when you greet them. They turn their heads toward you at the same time with two friendly finned hand waves to extend a warm greeting in unison. “I’m Tandem”, their voice adds in timid stereo, hoping to clarify matters somewhat, and you understand they’re both right.
Saturday, March 23rd, 2013
3:57 am
I'm reminded of the saying about how after a cat has touched a hot stove element once, it'll never touch a hot stove element again - but it'll never touch a cold one, either.

It's important to learn the lessons we do need to learn from the mistakes we make where they apply, without automatically generalizing them to everything else by extension, not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak.

I've been finding myself reminding myself of the importance of that lesson a lot lately.

Current Mood: indescribable
Saturday, March 16th, 2013
10:43 pm
Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart?
via trikotomy

Noah Muthler took his first state standardized test in third grade at the Spring Cove Elementary School in Roaring Spring, Pa. It was a miserable experience, said his mother, Kathleen Muthler. He was a good student in a program for gifted children. But, Muthler said, “he was crying in my arms the night before the test, saying: ‘I’m not ready, Mom. They didn’t teach us everything that will be on the test.’ ” In fourth grade, he was upset the whole week before the exam. “He manifests it physically,” his mother said. “He got headaches and stomachaches. He would ask not to go to school.” Not a good sleeper anyway, Noah would slip downstairs after an hour tossing in bed and ask his mom to lie down with him until he fell asleep. In fifth grade, the anxiety lasted a solid month before the test. “Even after the test, he couldn’t let it go. He would wonder about questions he feared he misunderstood,” Muthler said.

So this year, Muthler is opting Noah out of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, using a broad religious and ethical exemption. Just knowing he won’t be taking the tests in March has put Noah in a better frame of mind about school. “The pressure is off his shoulders now,” his mother said. When he doesn’t grasp a concept immediately, he can talk it through without any panic. “He looks forward to science class and math class again,” Muthler said. “He wants to be a chemical or nuclear engineer.”

Muthler understands Noah’s distress; more mysterious is why her son Jacob, who is in eighth grade, isn’t the least bit unnerved by the same tests. He, too, is in the gifted program, but that seems to give him breezy confidence, not fear. “You would think he doesn’t even care,” Muthler marveled. “Noah has the panic and anxiety for both of them.” Nevertheless, she will opt out Jacob from the tests, too, to be consistent.

Never before has the pressure to perform on high-stakes tests been so intense or meant so much for a child’s academic future. As more school districts strive for accountability, standardized tests have proliferated. The pressure to do well on achievement tests for college is filtering its way down to lower grades, so that even third graders feel as if they are on trial. Students get the message that class work isn’t what counts, and that the standardized exam is the truer measure. Sure, you did your homework and wrote a great history report — but this test is going to find out how smart you really are. Critics argue that all this test-taking is churning out sleep-deprived, overworked, miserable children.

But some children actually do better under competitive, stressful circumstances. Why can Jacob thrive under pressure, while it undoes Noah? And how should that difference inform the way we think about high-stakes testing? An emerging field of research — and a pioneering study from Taiwan — has begun to offer some clues. Like any kind of human behavior, our response to competitive pressure is derived from a complex set of factors — how we were raised, our skills and experience, the hormones that we marinated in as fetuses. There is also a genetic component: One particular gene, referred to as the COMT gene, could to a large degree explain why one child is more prone to be a worrier, while another may be unflappable, or in the memorable phrasing of David Goldman, a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health, more of a warrior.

Understanding their propensity to become stressed and how to deal with it can help children compete. Stress turns out to be far more complicated than we’ve assumed, and far more under our control than we imagine. Unlike long-term stress, short-term stress can actually help people perform, and viewing it that way changes its effect. Even for those genetically predisposed to anxiety, the antidote isn’t necessarily less competition — it’s more competition. It just needs to be the right kind.

Every May in Taiwan, more than 200,000 ninth-grade children take the Basic Competency Test for Junior High School Students. This is not just any test. The scores will determine which high school the students are admitted to — or if they get into one at all. Only 39 percent of Taiwanese children make the cut, with the rest diverted to vocational schools or backup private schools. The test, in essence, determines the future for Taiwanese children.

The test is incredibly difficult; answering the multiple-choice questions requires knowledge of chemistry, physics, advanced algebra and geometry, and testing lasts for two days. “Many students go to cram school almost every night to study all the subjects on the test,” says Chun-Yen Chang, director of the Science Education Center at National Taiwan Normal University. “Just one or two percentage points difference will drag you from the No. 1 high school in the local region down to No. 3 or 4.”

In other words, the exam was a perfect, real world experiment for studying the effects of genetics on high-stakes competition. Chang and his research team took blood samples from 779 students who had recently taken the Basic Competency Test in three regions of Taiwan. They matched each student’s genotype to his or her test score.

The researchers were interested in a single gene, the COMT gene. This gene carries the assembly code for an enzyme that clears dopamine from the prefrontal cortex. That part of the brain is where we plan, make decisions, anticipate future consequences and resolve conflicts. “Dopamine changes the firing rate of neurons, speeding up the brain like a turbocharger,” says Silvia Bunge, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley. Our brains work best when dopamine is maintained at an optimal level. You don’t want too much, or too little. By removing dopamine, the COMT enzyme helps regulate neural activity and maintain mental function.

Here’s the thing: There are two variants of the gene. One variant builds enzymes that slowly remove dopamine. The other variant builds enzymes that rapidly clear dopamine. We all carry the genes for one or the other, or a combination of the two.

In lab experiments, people have been given a variety of cognitive tasks — computerized puzzles and games, portions of I.Q. tests — and researchers have consistently found that, under normal conditions, those with slow-acting enzymes have a cognitive advantage. They have superior executive function and all it entails: they can reason, solve problems, orchestrate complex thought and better foresee consequences. They can concentrate better. This advantage appears to increase with the number of years of education.

The brains of the people with the other variant, meanwhile, are comparatively lackadaisical. The fast-acting enzymes remove too much dopamine, so the overall level is too low. The prefrontal cortex simply doesn’t work as well.

On that score alone, having slow-acting enzymes sounds better. There seems to be a trade-off, however, to these slow enzymes, one triggered by stress. In the absence of stress, there is a cognitive advantage. But when under stress, the advantage goes away and in fact reverses itself.

“Stress floods the prefrontal cortex with dopamine,” says Adele Diamond, professor of developmental cognitive neuroscience at the University of British Columbia. A little booster hit of dopamine is normally a good thing, but the big surge brought on by stress is too much for people with the slow-acting enzyme, which can’t remove the dopamine fast enough. “Much like flooding a car engine with too much gasoline, prefrontal-cortex function melts down,” Diamond says.

Other research has found that those with the slow-acting enzymes have higher I.Q.’ s, on average. One study of Beijing schoolchildren calculated the advantage to be 10 I.Q. points. But it was unclear if the cognitive advantages they had would stay with them when they were under stress outside the security of the lab environment.

The Taiwan study was the first to look at the COMT gene in a high-stakes, real-life setting. Would the I.Q. advantage hold up, or would the stress undermine performance?

It was the latter. The Taiwanese students with the slow-acting enzymes sank on the national exam. On average, they scored 8 percent lower than those with the fast-acting enzymes. It was as if some of the A students and B students traded places at test time.

“I am not against pressure. Actually, pressure is good [for] someone,” Chang commented. “But those who are more vulnerable to stress will be more disadvantaged.”

As of 2014, Taiwan will no longer require all students to take the Basic Competency Test, as the country moves to 12-year compulsory education. The system will no longer be built to weed out children, but to keep them all in school. But academically advanced students will still take some kind of entrance exam. And those elite students will still feel the pressure, which, it bears repeating, will hurt some but help others.

“The people who perform best in normal conditions may not be the same people who perform best under stress,” Diamond says. People born with the fast-acting enzymes “actually need the stress to perform their best.” To them, the everyday is underwhelming; it doesn’t excite them enough to stimulate the sharpness of mind of which they are capable. They benefit from that surge in dopamine — it raises the level up to optimal. They are like Superman emerging from the phone booth in times of crisis; their abilities to concentrate and solve problems go up.

Some scholars have suggested that we are all Warriors or Worriers. Those with fast-acting dopamine clearers are the Warriors, ready for threatening environments where maximum performance is required. Those with slow-acting dopamine clearers are the Worriers, capable of more complex planning. Over the course of evolution, both Warriors and Worriers were necessary for human tribes to survive.

In truth, because we all get one COMT gene from our father and one from our mother, about half of all people inherit one of each gene variation, so they have a mix of the enzymes and are somewhere in between the Warriors and the Worriers. About a quarter of people carry Warrior-only genes, and a quarter of people Worrier-only.

A number of research studies are looking at COMT, including several involving the American military. Researchers at Brown University have been studying COMT’s connection to post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Quinn Kennedy, a research psychologist at the Naval Postgraduate School, is studying how the gene correlates with pilot performance. Douglas C. Johnson, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, is part of a consortium of researchers called the OptiBrain Center, where he is interested in COMT’s role in combat performance and well-being.

While the studies are ongoing, the early results show those with Worrier-genes can still handle incredible stress — as long as they are well trained. Even some Navy SEALs have the Worrier genes, so you can literally be a Worrier-gene Warrior. In Kennedy’s sample, almost a third of the expert pilots were Worriers — a larger proportion than in the general population.

Kennedy’s work is particularly revealing. She puts pilots through a series of six flight-simulator tests, where pilots endure turbulence, oil-pressure problems, iced carburetors and crosswinds while landing. They are kept furiously busy, dialing to new frequencies, flying to new altitudes and headings and punching in transponder codes.

Among recreational pilots with the lowest rating level — trained to fly only in daylight — those with Warrior genes performed best. But that changed with more experience. Among recreational pilots who had the next level of qualification — trained to fly at night using cockpit instruments — the Worriers far outperformed the Warriors. Their genetically blessed working memory and attention advantage kicked in. And their experience meant they didn’t melt under the pressure of their genetic curse.

What this suggests, Kennedy says, is that, for Worriers, “through training, they can learn to manage the particular stress in the specific pilot training, even if it is not necessarily transferred over to other parts of their lives.”

So while the single-shot stakes of a standardized exam is particularly ill suited for Worrier genotypes, this doesn’t mean that they should be shielded from all challenge. In fact, shielding them could be the worst response, depriving them of the chance to acclimate to recurring stressors. Johnson explains this as a form of stress inoculation: You tax them without overwhelming them. “And then allow for sufficient recovery,” he continued. Training, preparation and repetition defuse the Worrier’s curse.

There are many psychological and physiological reasons that long-term stress is harmful, but the science of elite performance has drawn a different conclusion about short-term stress. Studies that compare professionals with amateur competitors — whether concert pianists, male rugby or female volleyball players — show that professionals feel just as much anxiety as amateurs. The difference is in how they interpret their anxiety. The amateurs view it as detrimental, while the professionals tend to view stress as energizing. It gets them to focus.

A similar mental shift can also help students in test-taking situations. Jeremy Jamieson, assistant professor of social psychology at the University of Rochester, has done a series of experiments that reveal how the labeling of stress affects performance on academic testing.

The first experiment was at Harvard University with undergraduates who were studying for the Graduate Record Examination. Before taking a practice test, the students read a short note explaining that the study’s purpose was to examine the effects of stress on cognition. Half of the students, however, were also given a statement declaring that recent research suggests “people who feel anxious during a test might actually do better.” Therefore, if the students felt anxious during the practice test, it said, “you shouldn’t feel concerned. . . simply remind yourself that your arousal could be helping you do well.”

Just reading this statement significantly improved students’ performance. They scored 50 points higher in the quantitative section (out of a possible 800) than the control group on the practice test. Remarkable as that seemed, it is relatively easy to get a result in a lab. Would it affect their actual G.R.E. results? A couple of months later, the students turned in their real G.R.E. scores. Jamieson calculated that the group taught to see anxiety as beneficial in the lab experiment scored 65 points higher than the controls. In ongoing work, Jamieson is replicating the experiment with remedial math students at a Midwestern community college: after they were told to think of stress as beneficial, their grades improved.

At first blush, you might assume that the statement about anxiety being beneficial simply calmed the students, reducing their stress and allowing them to focus. But that was not the case. Jamieson’s team took saliva samples of the students, both the day before the practice test to set a base line, and right after reading the lines about the new science — just moments before they started the first question. Jamieson had the saliva tested for biomarkers that show the level of activation of the body’s sympathetic nervous system — our “fight or flight” response. The experimental group’s stress levels were decidedly higher. The biological stress was real, but it had different physiological manifestations and had somehow been transformed into a positive force that drove performance.

If you went to an SAT testing site and could run physiological and neurological scans on the teenagers milling outside the door right before the exam, you would observe very different biomarkers from student to student. Those standing with shoulders hunched, or perhaps rubbing their hands, stamping their feet to get warm, might be approaching what Wendy Berry Mendes and colleagues call a “threat state.” According to Mendes, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, San Francisco, the hallmark of a threat state is vasoconstriction — a tightening of the smooth muscles that line every blood vessel in the body. Blood pressure rises; breathing gets shallow. Oxygenated blood levels drop, and energy supplies are reduced. Meanwhile, a rush of hormones amplifies activity in the brain’s amygdala, making you more aware of risks and fearful of mistakes.

At that same test center, you might see students shoulders back, chest open, putting weight on their toes. They may be in a “challenge state.” Hormones activate the brain’s reward centers and suppress the fear networks, so the person is excited to start in on the test. In this state, decision making becomes automatic. The blood vessels and lungs dilate. In a different study of stress, Jamieson found that the people told to feel positive about being anxious had their blood flow increase by an average of more than half a liter per minute, with more oxygen and energy coursing throughout the body and brain. Some had up to two liters per minute extra.

Jamieson is frustrated that our culture has such a negative view of stress: “When people say, ‘I’m stressed out,’ it means, ‘I’m not doing well.’ It doesn’t mean, ‘I’m excited — I have increased oxygenated blood going to my brain. ”

As the doors to the test center open, the line between challenge and threat is thin. Probably nothing induces a threat state more than feeling you can’t make any mistakes. Threat physiology can be activated with the sense of being judged, or anything that triggers the fear of disappointing others. As a student opens his test booklet, threat can flare when he sees a subject he has recently learned but hasn’t mastered. Or when he sees a problem he has no idea how to solve.

Armando Rodriguez graduated last spring from Bright Star Secondary Charter Academy in Los Angeles, but he is waiting until next fall to start college. He is not taking a gap year to figure out what he wants to do with his life. He’s recuperating from knee surgery for a bone condition, spending his days in physical therapy. And what does he miss about being out of school? Competing.

“It’s an adrenaline rush — like no other thing.” He misses being happy when he wins. He even misses losing. “At least it was a feeling you got,” he said. “It made you want to be better, the next time.” Without a competitive goal, he feels a little adrift. He finds himself mentally competing with other physical-therapy patients.

Rodriguez recorded a 3.86 G.P.A. his senior year of high school and was a defender for the school soccer team. The knee injury happened during a stint on the school’s football team: his doctor had warned that it was too risky to play, but “I just had to try,” he said. He used to constantly challenge his friends on quiz grades; it’s how they made schoolwork fun.

But when he took the SAT last year, he experienced a different sensation. “My heart was racing,” he said. “I had butterflies.” Occasionally, he’d look up from his exam to see everyone else working on their own tests: they seemed to be concentrating so hard and answering questions faster than he was. “What if they’re doing way better than me?” immediately led to the thought, “These people are smarter than me. All the good schools are going to want them, and not me.” Within seconds, he arrived at the worst possible outcome: his hopes of a good college would be gone.

It might seem surprising that the same student can experience competition in such different ways. But this points to what researchers think is the difference between competition that challenges and competition that threatens.

Taking a standardized test is a competition in which the only thing anyone cares about is the final score. No one says, “I didn’t do that well, but it was still worth doing, because I learned so much math from all the months of studying.” Nobody has ever come out of an SAT test saying, “Well, I won’t get into the college I wanted, but that’s O.K. because I made a lot of new friends at the Kaplan center.” Standardized tests lack the side benefits of competing that normally buffer children’s anxiety. When you sign your child up for the swim team, he may really want to finish first, but there are many other reasons to be in the pool, even if he finishes last.

High-stakes academic testing isn’t going away. Nor should competition among students. In fact several scholars have concluded that what students need is more academic competition, but modeled on the kinds children enjoy.

David and Christi Bergin, professors of educational and developmental psychology at the University of Missouri, have begun a pilot study of junior high school students participating in math competitions. They have observed that, within a few weeks, students were tackling more complex problems than they would even at the end of a yearlong class. Some were even doing college-level math. That was true even for students who didn’t like math before joining the team and were forced into it by their parents. Knowing they were going up against other teams in front of an audience, the children took ownership over the material. They became excited about discovering ever more advanced concepts, having realized each new fact was another weapon in their intellectual arsenal.

In-class spelling bees. Science fairs. Chess teams. “The performance is highly motivating,” David Bergin says. Even if a child knows her science project won’t win the science fair, she still gets that moment to perform. That moment can be stressful and invigorating and scary, but if the child handles it well, it feels like a victory.

“Children benefit from competition they have prepared for intensely, especially when viewed as an opportunity to gain recognition for their efforts and improve for the next time,” says Rena Subotnik, a psychologist at the American Psychological Association. Subotnik notes that scholastic competitions can raise the social status of academic work as well as that of the contestants. Competitions like these are certainly not without stress, but the pressure comes in predictable ebbs and flows, broken up by moments of fun and excitement.

Maybe the best thing about academic competitions is that they benefit both Warriors and Worriers equally. The Warriors get the thrilling intensity their minds are suited for, where they can shine. The Worriers get the gradual stress inoculation they need, so that one day they can do more than just tolerate stress — they can embrace it. And through the cycle of preparation, performance and recovery, what they learn becomes ingrained.

It may be difficult to believe, as Jamieson advises, that stress can benefit your performance. We can read it, and we can talk about it, but it’s the sort of thing that needs to be practiced, perhaps for years, before it can become a deeply held conviction.

It turns out that Armando Rodriguez was accepted at five colleges. He rallied that day on the SAT. It wasn’t his best score — he did better the second time around — but it was not as bad as he feared. Rodriguez had never heard of Jeremy Jamieson. He had never read, or ever been told, that intense stress could be harnessed to perform his best. But he understood it and drew strength from it. In the middle of his downward spiral of panic, he realized something: “I’m in a competition. This is a competition. I’ve got to beat them.”
Sunday, February 10th, 2013
7:49 am
martial arts video 3
Let's see, that makes this the third one of these I've made, the previous one was in 2009, the first one was way back in 2005, and this being 2013, that's one every four years so far.
Not the fastest turnout rate ever, but whatever.

Hope at least some of you like!


EDIT 8:40pm Note that, if you're curious, if you click "Show More" it shows a key of what I'm doing at what time.

Current Mood: accomplished
Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
11:18 pm
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Hey, having just posted this, I feel more accomplished already.

How about that.

Current Mood: guilty
11:17 pm
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11:07 pm
David Wrong
So apparently David Wong morphed into a Randian jackass while we weren't looking, who knew?
Apparently this is just something that happens to people now.
Here's the sane responses critical of the article, so you can read them without feeling covered in poison needles.
You're welcome.

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Thursday, December 27th, 2012
5:24 pm
Idle No More

I only just learned about this, but it's been going on since December 11th and it's huge.

Basically, our prime minister Harper sold the use of a pipeline across Canada to the Chinese government for the next 31 years for $15 billion, without regard for either the environmental damage that it's going to do or for the fact that it's in direct contradiction with a pretty important treaty with the First Nations which goes centuries back, completely breaking international laws in every way. So some prominent First Nation people have gone on a hunger strike to the death until Harper agrees to meet with them about how to address the problem, and the smartest thing he can think of doing about it is to make sick jokes about how great the food he's having is while they starve to death. This is already being talked about as being worse than the Oka crisis from decades ago now, which had already significantly altered the political landscape back then as it was. To make a long story short, if Harper doesn't wake up and smell the coffee in time, people are, albeit most legitimately, going to be mad about it, I mean really mad about it, to the extent of active interference with operations on a massive scale, resistance which government forces are unlikely to be smartly directed about how to deal with, and we could very well end up with a nationwide civil war on our hands.

This bodes most ill.

Current Mood: grim
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
3:06 am
Of course not everyone is going to feel the same way about everything, that's a given.
Over the course of my life I've radically changed my opinion about certain things, and I've seen others change some of theirs, but I don't think I've ever changed anyone else's mind about anything, and if someone else changed some of mine specifically, I can't tell that they have (although that might just be how that works).
We're all affected in our beliefs and opinions by the many various events that have shaped our lives, not only by intellectual but also by emotional factors, by sometimes perhaps some of the smallest details.

I've really eased up on the animal rights militancy crap compared to the person I was a decade ago, that's for one thing. I now find that druids can be just as inflexible in their beliefs as paladins, to put things in D&D terms. I've known people who it would have been a mistake to push away based on distinctions like that.

I try to treat meat-eating vs vegetarianism pretty much like straight vs gay, in the sense that I think that maybe everyone just isn't geared toward the same way of life, without it saying anything about either way being objectively better, as long as neither is made socially impossible. I wouldn't tell wolves to stop eating deer, so maybe it's no more up to me to tell humans not to eat other animals than that, and if I bought meat for a cat for years, it makes no less sense for me to buy some for a human today. On a purely emotional level, I'm proud to say that I'm now able to forgive humankind for everything except lobsters, but that's probably largely because I used to sleep with a lobster plushie as a child.

In retrospect selling those things in that port town right next to all of those lobster restaurants was some exceptionally terrible marketing on someone's part right there, I can tell you that.
Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
3:14 am

LapineLunaire says:
August 3, 2012 at 7:06 am

Dear author person,

It seems like you’ve had some first hand experience (or at least very personal second hand experience) with chronic low self esteem and major depression, because Katia’s story hits home so hard it almost knocks me out, for this manic depressant, rock-bottom self-esteem survivor.

I can’t claim to know what you’ve been through or how it really felt, but I felt a kindred spirit in Katia, at a time when I was at my weakest.

Katia made the smallest, most seemingly insignificant advances, and then fell HARD. Repeatedly. Some readers got obviously frustrated and lost hope, probably stopped reading… not realizing that each slip back down that slope into that dark hole, Katia ended with just a few inches more footing than she originally had.

That’s what the struggle with depression is like. You can never just one day decide you’re better, it’s not like realizing something you missed before, some new evidence that suddenly makes everything right.

Each day is a literal and figurative struggle. Each day, if you’re lucky, you gain maybe an infinitesimally small bit of footing, only a few more inches towards getting “better”, and that’s only if you have the willpower, only if you’ve made the conscientious decision to change. Few people realize how much willpower that takes, I think perhaps only people who’ve been there can.

Katia has been there. It will be slow, and it will be hard, perhaps the hardest thing you could ask of a person, but she will climb out of that hole and become the fantastic person/khajiit/wizard she was meant to be.

Here’s to everyone that’s ever felt like Katia. To the people that knew what they were, that they had to change, and struggled so hard against their darker natures even when it felt like they could never move forward. To those that succumbed to their darker selves, only later to hate themselves the more for it. For whomever cared so much about what someone else thought that they’d try to move the very earth just to be worth that person’s passing thought.

To whomever cared about the people like Katia, who believed in them and supported them when they clearly didn’t know how to believe in themselves. Who saw them fail, again and again, but stood by them, told them they could make it, even though it was clear to them it was impossible.

To those that have been there, I can say:
You will emerge from that darkness, that black and endless hole, as Katia will, as the radiant and chromatic people that only such an experience can create. You will emerge as heroes. Perharps you wont get to be wizards, but you will emerge as artists, writers, song-singers, poets, architects, dream-makers, those rare and wonderful people who can move the lives of others in the deepest of ways.

To those that have stood by those that have clearly been where Katia is, I can say:
It will be worth it. You know in your heart it will. That’s why you’ve stood by us. We will get better. You may think that day to day we are not getting any better, that your support isn’t really doing anything, but you are dead wrong. Please, keep believing. We love you, and we will not let you down. We will show you beauty and truth and joy that only your sacrifice can bring about, your personal sacrifice in caring about one such as us. It has not gone unnoticed, and it will not go unrewarded.

To all the people. There is love and goodness in the world, and a silly story about a slutty khajiit can make you realize it.

Current Mood: moved
Wednesday, September 5th, 2012
11:51 pm
First of all, we tried to vote and they wouldn't let us due to some technical fuckup that wasn't our fault, so hooray for democracy there, but that's not even the best part.

After the PQ won the election yesterday, someone showed up at their headquarters with guns and explosives and one or two people were killed before they arrested the fucker.

Now, I may not like what the PQ's long-term plans for the province are (and I don't), but really, I mean really, how much more of this crap are we going to have to put up with before people finally figure out the full extent to which it's getting old, that's what I want to know about it. I don't know what goes on into a person's mind that would even make that seem like a good idea at the time. It's not exactly like 9/11 made the lives of Arabs in the States even remotely easier, so if some francophones here were already going to discriminate against anglophones before, it's even less likely that they're going to do so any less now.

Same as with the "helpful" chap who tried to take out that anti-gay group in the States the same way, really - how many people did he think that was going to convince to agree with him? How many gay people's lives is that really going to improve? Does it even occur to these people that all they're doing is creating martyrs for the other side? This sucked when the French FLQ did it decades ago, and it still sucks when someone does it to the French side now. When it all comes down to it, that you wouldn't solve problems with violence isn't a philosophical position or a political opinion - it's just an observation. It's simple physics.

... Then someone stole all the mail in our building, some of which, like, mattered.

Current Mood: WTF Canada indeed!
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