Pants Points Report (late)

I've missed my Pants Points Reports for the last two weeks, so this is a catch-up post. As of Friday, Feb. 8: 176/350 total to date: 443/1050 -- I did not do well this week.  Depression affects my ability to convince myself to do laundry.

As of Friday, Feb. 15: 319/350 total to date: 862/1400 -- The 19 was the Saturday, when I did laundry.  The rest of the week was all 50's.  I felt a lot better this time.

Pants Points Report

Total score: 775/850 (This week: 327/350)

As of this way, I think I can say with a certain amount of confidence that the Pants Points system is not working as well as I had hoped.  Neither is the Khan Academy or Regex work, regular blogging, or story work.  I'm still getting the usual flare-ups of vacation depression.

Still, I'm going to stick it out, and probably continue using the system coming into the next semester, because at least it's been motivating me to get my laundry done, and I've been regularly dressed enough to go outside and get the mail.  Plus, as I've mentioned before, it's one less step between me and leaving the house.

I don't have anything left in my bag of tricks to try and make myself happier this winter, but I will try to come up with something for Spring Break.  In the meantime, wish me luck?  There are still like twenty more days of vacation that I'm not super-thrilled about.

slow brain day

I'm having a slow brain day. Does anyone else who reads this blog sometimes have days when they just can't get their brain working as smoothly as they wish it would?  Part of it is that it's too hot in my office right now, part of it is that I have a little bit of a headache and I slept at a bad angle last night so my neck hurts.  Part of it is that, though I know I should be paying attention to my schoolwork right now and writing for the school paper, I mostly just want to think about the D&D game I got invited to this weekend because I haven't played in a very long time and I'm nervous.

I don't think there's any one big thing, down at the bottom of all of it.  I think it really is that my neck hurts and I'm distracted and it's a little uncomfortable in this room.  My ankle hurts today -- I wonder if it's going to rain soon.  My day planner is a little bit overloaded.  I have a new story idea, but I don't know how to start writing it.

Philip DeFranco posted a video today about self-worth, and about having a sense of purpose.  I've reposted it below.

I get my sense of self-worth predominantly from my intellect -- I'm more comfortable believing that my thinking skills are valuable than anything else I'm able to do, and when they aren't working very well, it's emotionally difficult.

So I'm grasping around trying to find something stimulating enough that it inspires me to create new content, but nothing's working as well as I'd like.  I've got thirteen tabs open right now, and I keep opening new blank ones trying to think of something new to type into the search bar.  More than once, I've opened one blank tab, then, frustrated, opened another, as though that first blank tab was failing me and I needed a fresh start on blankness to get to a more substantial place.

It's even hard to figure out what about my present state of mind might be worth reading from someone else's perspective.

It'll get better, though.  I'm sure it will.

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower -- full disclosure, I never read the book. I own it, because I remember a lot of people in high school telling me how great it was and how important it was to them.  But I didn't get through the first 20 pages.  I don't think I hated it, I think I just picked a bad time to start reading a serious book. Anyway, I enjoyed the movie.  It was hard to watch -- very "Real-life," in the way that means "Sad."  I don't normally like that kind of movie, but they did a good job.  Even though I never read the book, I was glad to see that the original author also wrote the screenplay and directed.

There was a lot of stuff where I wonder if it was in the book or not, but since the writer wrote both, I don't think it matters much.  There's a recurring point, not really a plot point, but events, where an english teacher gives the main characters classic books, the kinds of books that make huge impacts on nerdy kids' lives.  I wonder if Stephen Chbosky was trying to write a book like that on purpose.

Spoilery reviewing below the fold.

I said before that this movie was sad, and that I don't normally like that.  I mean it was the kind of painful sad, where one of the major themes of the movie is "Sometimes, for some people, life just really sucks."  It's all about high school, and that's an easy setting for incredibly dark, painful stories.  It's a lot more believable (and, in consequence, more painful) that kids will screw things up the way they do in these kinds of movies than adults, like when Charlie kisses Sam in front of Mary Elizabeth.  That hurt a lot to watch.

I don't remember exactly when it happened, but I remember figuring out when I was in high school that, statistically, the fact that bad things happen to everyone sometimes means bad things happen to some people all the time.  And it's not that they bought it on themselves, or they're bad people, or they're doing something wrong.  It's just that every time you try to pick yourself up, there's a chance it will go horribly wrong.  So it's almost necessarily true that for some people, whenever they try to make their lives better, it will go horribly wrong.

But this isn't that kind of movie.  The message of this movie wasn't "Everything sucks," it was more like "It gets better."  Which is a super-important message.

The DSM-V takes gender off the table

(via Upworthy on Tumblr) Like every other academic field, the claims made by psychology are constantly open to revision and rebuttal, and like every other academic field, psychology becomes less biased, stratified, and private as time passes and advances are made.

I'm reminded in particular of the history of geometry, which acquired non-Euclidean geometry over 2000 years after Euclidean geometry came up.

Unlike geometry, though, the impact of biases in psychology affect the individual lives of people every day.  Systems of oppression have been hung on bad psychology.  Social myths and prejudices are perpetuated by bad psychology.  Bad geometry can only hold up new creation, whereas bad psychology can do specific harm.

That is why I am thrilled to report that the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-V, the standard textbook from which individuals are diagnosed and medicines are prescribed, is eliminating Gender Identity Disorder.

Well, I say eliminating.  What they've done is switched Gender Identity Disorder (which describes the dissonance between one's assigned gender and experienced gender as unhealthy, and tends toward implicitly arguing that the assigned gender is the correct one) for Gender Dysphoria, which they describe as:

a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender.

Why is this a good thing?  Starting from a purely semantic perspective, "Gender Identity Disorder" means the problem is with the individual's perception of their gender.  "Gender Dysphoria" means the individual is unhappy about the state of their experience of gender.

Under the new definition, especially within the context it's been changed, someone who was assigned male at birth but identified as female could seek therapy to help deal with the dissonance, medication that might either help with the depression or help her transition, and insurance-covered surgery to help resolve the incongruance between her body and her identity.

It wouldn't mean that she could be treated by the medical institution like she was a boy and just needed the right treatment to fix her.

The arguments that Advocate.com's article cites in favor of keeping Gender Identity Disorder are for purposes of medical standing for surgery and legal standing in discrimination cases.  But I don't think either of those issues are actually affected by the change.

The new definition still affirms that gender identity is a legitimate, medically valid source of stress and psychological pain.  It just doesn't insist that the problem is boys thinking they're girls and girls thinking they're boys. (And boys and girls thinking they're either or neither...  Does my statement need to be fully inclusive if it's a characterization of a bigoted opinion?  Let me know what you think in comments.)

NY Times on Innovation

The New York Times posted a cool article a few days ago called "32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow," outlining what  the writers argue are important innovations that exist now, and will be very important in the future.

When we ignore how innovation actually works, we make it hard to see what’s happening right in front of us today. If you don’t know that the incandescent light was a failure before it was a success, it’s easy to write off some modern energy innovations — like solar panels — because they haven’t hit the big time fast enough.

My favorite parts:

Soon, coffee isn’t going to taste like coffee — at least not the dark, ashy roasts we drink today. Big producers want uniform taste, and a dark roast makes that easy: it evens out flavors and masks flaws. But now the best beans are increasingly being set aside and shipped in vacuum-sealed packs (instead of burlap bags).

I am so looking forward to the future where dark roast coffee isn't a thing anymore.  Dark roast is awful.  People who claim to like dark roast are, mostly, lying, and that crap can't go away soon enough.  (Crappy coffee is a major reason I switched to pills for my caffeine intake.  That, and it's way cheaper.)

The problem with laptops and tablets, says Mark Rolston of the design firm Frog, is that they’re confined by a screen. He wants to turn the entire room into a monitor, where you can have the news on your kitchen table while you place a video call on your fridge. And when you’re done, you can swipe everything away, like Tony Stark in “Iron Man.”

I want this.  That is all.

Wearing a small sensor on your head, at home, while you sleep, could be the key to diagnosing diseases early and assessing overall health. “This tech,” says Dr. Philip Low, the founder of a medical technology firm called NeuroVigil, “enables us to look for faint signals of, say, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, depression or Alzheimer’s in the brain, even though there may be no obvious symptoms.” [...] Currently, Low is working on a newer version of the device, which will be the size of a quarter and will transmit brain scans directly to smartphones and tablet computers. “We’re using sleep,” Low says, “as the gateway to the brain.”

I suffer from depression, and I fully support any mechanism which allows me to monitor for its onset.  It's not easy to tell you're depressed when you're depressed, and it's even harder to get yourself to do something about it at the time.  I'd love to have a thing to put on my head that would just email my psychiatrist if my mood was dropping in a serious way.  On that topic:

This year, Eva Redei, a professor at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, published a paper that identified molecules in the blood that correlated to major depression in a small group of teenagers. Ridge Diagnostics has also started to roll out a test analyzing 10 biomarkers linked to depression in adults. “Part of the reason there’s a stigma for mental illness, including depression, is that people think it’s only in their heads,” Redei says. “As long as there’s no measurable, objective sign, we’re going to stay in that mind-set of ‘Just snap out of it.’ ” Blood tests will take mental illness out of the squishy realm of feelings. And as Lonna Williams, C.E.O. of Ridge Diagnostics, says, they’ll help people understand “it’s not their fault.”

Stuff that seems not-so-great:

Researchers at Imperial College London are closing in on a formula for a new kind of booze — synthetic alcohol, it’s called — that would forever eliminate the next morning’s headache (not to mention other problems associated with drinking).

Maybe it'll be awesome, especially for things like punch, but I feel like taking out the stuff that causes hangovers and serious drunkenness is going to involve taking out a lot of the other important things about drinking, at least on a cultural level.  Personally, my favorite thing about drinking is the narrative aspect -- it feels nice to have a gin and tonic or a glass of whisky, I can't imagine it feeling the same with artificial buzz-water.