Monday, August 30, 2010

Dr. Temple Grandin

As Dr. Grandin is experiencing intense media coverage right now for the booming success of HBO's biopic on her life, I thought I would re-post my reflections from the night I met her in March 2009.

Here you go...

By Kristopher Hite

Temple Grandin spoke tonight about animals and autism. She spoke about animals we love and animals we eat. She outlined in very literal terms the science behind animal emotion; what gives animals fear, rage, anxiety, and joy. She details the research involved in illuminating the emotions of animals in a highly accessible manner in her book Animals Make us Human. As she spoke I could not help but be completely entranced by her electricity.

Dr. Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and she has Asperger's syndrome - a disorder that falls along the autism spectrum. She describes her brain as a corporate office building with Ethernet cords linking all the workers on the lower floors while upper managament is lucky if they get a dial-up connection. She smiles at the audience while her eyes maintain an intense stare. Her energy is contagious. She has been in the national spotlight before and her star will continue to rise this year with the release of a feature biographical film produced by HBO in which she is portrayed by Claire Danes.

Professor Grandin is connected on a personal and professional level to some of the most challenging dilemmas facing society. Advocating early intervention and positive mentoring for children diagnosed with autism she stands as an example of a strong will overcoming hurdles. Her success as a best selling author gives hope to those afflicted with autism while her understanding of animals gives the world a better understanding of how to manage the growing meat industry while maintaining a consciousness of animal treatment.

She is mentioned in two books that have influenced my life; The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Autism's False Prophets by Paul Offit. Tonight she was asked her opinion of Offit's book and her answer was surprising. In Autism's False Prophets she is extolled as a champion for her role within the scientific establishment advocating early education and stimulation of children diagnosed with autism. She seemed shocked to learn that she was mentioned in the book and said she thinks the data indicating no correlation between vaccination and autism need to be scrutinized more thoroughly. She mentioned the error bars on a graph depicting the rise in autism presented at a recent seminar she attended at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine to be so large that they rendered the conclusions confusing. She basically said that more studies need to be done and the data needs to be interpreted by objective scientists not doctors or mothers filled with emotion. Throughout her talk she was filled with the qualities of a true scientist; a seeking drive to discover along with the skeptical eye on both sides of the issues before her.
When asked about the legitimacy of industrial sized feed lots her answer was very practical. She said that large feedlots can either be managed well, in which case they are perfectly legitimate, or managed poorly in which case it is the personnel that need tweaking not the system. She did acknowledge that (especially in pig farming) biological systems are being pushed to extremes causing undue animal suffering. She has worked to minimize this suffering throughout her career and is credited with designing machinery that touches half of all beef sold in the United States. During her design process she visualizes step by step the individual cow as it moves through a system. Her photographic memory gives her this unique ability.

I specifically asked her opinion on the role nutrition plays in animal behavior. Her response was equally as practical as her previous. She thinks nutrition plays a secondary role to the primary emotional effectors such as the social and physical environments. She specifically mentioned how well cattle do in the mild dry farms in Arizona because they do not have to cope with mud and over-heating they face in other parts of the country. Later she came back to the point about nutrition and mentioned that feeding a cow a lot of grain is like raising a kid on a diet of soda, cake, and candy. Of course the cow likes to eat the rich grain and is probably pleased, but the problem arises when the human manager tries to feed the animals too much grain. This causes lesions in the liver and obviously brings suffering to the animal. Her very practical remedy is not to shun the entire system, but to reform it; make sure the ratio of sweets to fiber is such that growth is maximized but balanced with health. She advocates providing oversight so that the greed of the meat grower does not ruin the system by poisoning the animals.

The last point I will make was the first point Dr. Grandin made. She began her talk on the topic of animal emotions but quickly pointed out that half the people in the room would think the idea that animals have emotion at all is "B.S." She quickly began fighting these instant conclusions by talking about the specific structures in the brain where each core emotion is regulated and how these apply to animals and humans alike. Then she made a particularly pertinent point to the new emergent media in which you are reading this text. She proposed that the problem with scientific disciplines is a lack of cross-talk. The complete lack of communication between the realms of science is the reason neuroscience took 30 years to be applied to the study of animal emotion. When she made this point I thought of the new age of internet communication, twitter, facebook, etc. etc. and visions of open online laboratories swirled in my head. A world where an experiment in Shanghai could inspire the next day's experiments in Chicago simultaneously to their recording. A world where an autistic professor could transfer her excitement for knowledge through my fingers to your mind.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

If corporations were people they'd all be deemed sociopaths

Profile of a sociopath ~

- Glibness and Superficial Charm

Manipulative and Conning They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.

Grandiose Sense of Self. Feels entitled to certain things as "their right."

Pathological Lying Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.

Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.

Shallow Emotions When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.

Incapacity for Love

Need for Stimulation Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.

Callousness/Lack of Empathy Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others' feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.

Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim.

Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.

Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet "gets by" by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.

Irresponsibility/Unreliability Not concerned about wrecking others' lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.

Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.

Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Mountain top removal is dead wrong!


This video comes from an in-depth story published in the New York Times today. Again, we should listen to Larry!

Abound Solar - aloft with stimulus

A company that started here in Fort Collins, CO recently received $400 million in stimulus money from President Obama. I've tracked the progress of the company throughout its development as it is a spin-off from the mechanical engineering department at Colorado State University. Namely from the lab of W.S. Sampath who I've had the pleasure of meeting a few times. The following is a fairly cheesy but informative corporate video explaining what abound solar is and what they make. I have written about this company before - you can read about their origins here.

For those financially inclined, I have speculated that abound may go public at some point.  I have heard nothing further on an IPO but, while the world waits to pick their renewable energy horses there are some companies associated with abound that ARE publicly traded.  if you pause the video you can read some of their logos. However, the one I will mention here is called Advanced Energy.  Though other companies listed specialize in distribution and installation it appears to me that Advanced Energy is the most wholly integrated company with abound in their manufacturing process. 

My hope is that with all this tax money "we the people" are pouring into this company that they have the wherewithal to give back to the people (NOT THE CORPORATIONS) that have enabled their progress.  I have had the pleasure to make the acquaintance of one Henri Redcloud of the Lakota Nation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. I met Henri through his collaboration with another Colorado State spin-off (this one non-profit) called Village Earth.  I am not affiliated with either abound solar or village earth but the proximity of these causes compels me to put out on the internet a suggestion for collaboration.   As you can see in the video below Henri has a vision through his own start-up - Lakota Solar Enterprises to bring a sustainable energy future to his people.  Presently Abound has contracts with major companies in Germany (I.E. Juwi) where solar energy is so heavily subsidized it makes the sale of these relatively low efficiency (but also very low cost) solar cells profitable.  My hope is that our government realizes the worth of subsidizing solar AND also realizes that local control of the electricity generated is important for the democratization of energy in America. I am using these words to make a vote. I vote that these subsidies start as pilot projects in places like the Pine Ridge reservation,  where the oldest Americans deserve power both electric and political!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Head Full of Doubt

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Post with the Most - WINNER!!!

Tom Paine's Ghost is excited to announce this year's Post with the Most Winner!!!

Exactly one month late, we are excited to announce the winner of the first annual POST with the MOST on Tom Paine's GHOST blog post composition contest. The decision was close but - as was set out in the initial guidelines -  there can only be ONE winner.

The final results-

After all votes came in here is how it worked out. Less points are good, more bad.

A Natural History of my instrument: by Alicia Jo Rabins received 7 points coming in 3rd

Four Green Technologies That Could Change The World by Beth Buczynski received 6 points coming in 2nd.

Reflections on the Gulf Oil Spill - Conversations With My Grandpa: by Christie Wilcox  received 5 points coming in 1st!

Congratulations to Christie Wilcox - author of the blog Observations of a Nerd - for winning the first ever, first annual Post with the Most composition competition! Prize includes $100 cash and a copy of the latest issue of the Matter Journal a $17 value with  photos, art, interviews, poems and prose all dedicated to the giant of Western American environmentalism - Edward "Cactus Ed" Abbey. 

A big thank you to the judges, who shall remain anonymous, and all who participated. by submitting themselves or commenting on submission throughout the year.  On behalf of myself ,the process was enlightening and inspiring.  I look forward to next year's competition and all new ways of viewing this blue sphere we call home. 

Please submit your own entry for the 2011 contest by posting a link in the comments below or by sending me an e-mail. There are no date, length or content restrictions posts can only be entered once. if you entered a post last year you can not submit the same post this year.  For more details on the criteria for posts visit the original competition announcement here. In a nutshell, we are looking for entries using different forms of media. These forms include, but are not limited to - text, static images, audio, video, and any other medium, even those not yet known to the world.

Thank you for visiting,
may your day be filled with free thought.

Competition brought to you by - Chico bags - reusable compact shopping bags via Aidel's Vice.