Thursday, 31 January 2008


Canberra to Sydney by bus
Sydney to Auckland (Change planes)
Auckland to Los Angeles (Change planes)
Los Angeles to Vancouver (Change planes)
Vancouver to Montreal

Stay 21 days at the Bed and Breakfast

Montreal to Calgary (Change planes)
Calgary to Edmonton

Stay 5 days with friends

Edmonton to Calgary (Again)(Change planes)
Calgary to Los Angeles

Stay 2 days with friends

Los Angeles to Auckland (Change planes)
Auckland to Sydney
Bus from Sydney to Canberra

First stage completed - posted from SYD International Airport. I'm about to board.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Maple Leaf Rag

I'm off to Canada in just over 12 hours.

The reason? Someone very important to me could do with a bit of support.

There are so few of us. Not Transsexuals, they're everywhere. No, those who start transitioning out of the blue, in a natural process, not the result of a course of therapy.

She's going to see Dr Brassard in Montreal to get some minor but important details taken care of. And a week later, so is another friend of mine, same place, same surgeon.

I'm not doing this out of altruism, well, not only out of altruism. I'll be seeing some dear friends, women who have all done it far tougher than I have. We've wept on each others shoulders, bled in each others wounds, and are bonded tighter than mere sisters. I've often said that the most amazing thing about my transition is not the physiological or psychological change, it's that I've met some of the most wonderful people on the planet. True Heroines. Well, I've met them on-line. Now I'll be meeting them in person, getting and giving hugs.

Worth going from +35C to -20C, and travelling halfway round the planet. Worth emptying my savings. I'm doing this to help Katie and Kay, but mostly I'm doing this for Zoe.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

A Ticking Time Bomb?

One with a long fuse, fortunately. And one which may not go off in a way that will harm us. Maybe. We think. Probably not..... But call it just possibly the Biggest, Baddest shaped-charge IED the Universe can provide, and aimed approximately in our direction.

From The Gamma Ray Burster Threat:

The side of Earth facing the concentrated beam of an incoming gamma burst from a nearby source would suffer atmospheric shock waves which ignited everything in the air and on the surface of the planet. The immense heating of the atmosphere would begin causing catastrophic weather changes worldwide within only minutes. Everything which could burn would do so. However, taking refuge in sturdy shelters would offer some momentary protection. Following this brief (under one second) blast of gamma rays would be days of cosmic rays raining down upon Earth, and passing with killing energies through everything as deep as half a kilometer. It's unlikely even humanity's elite in the best and deepest underground shelters available could survive. Life in the depths of the oceans will be killed. Everything on the surface will be dead.

Fortunately these death rays consist of beams likely only one degree wide, and so will usually miss a particular world like Earth. Unfortunately, the stats still put us at risk about once every hundred million years.

Except that time frame might be a bit closer.

Seen via Opinion Dominion, an article from Australian Sky and Telescope :

The binary system known as WR 104, which consists of a Wolf-Rayet star and an OB companion, is well known for its spectacular dusty “pinwheel” nebula, which was revealed in spectacular detail by a team of astronomers lead by Peter Tuthill (now at Sydney University) in 1999. The nebula is formed by material contained within a wind that is driven away from the binary stars. As the material moves away from the stars, it curves as it rotates around the system.

That same team, expanded to include others from Australia and the United States, has now compiled observations (taken with the 10 metre Keck Telescope in Hawaii) of WR 104 spanning six years (their study is to be published in the Astrophysical Journal). Wolf-Rayet stars are candidates for turning into supernovae, and so their mass-loss history is of considerable interest.

Recent studies of supernovae have explored whether there is a link between these exploding stars and gamma-ray bursts (the most energetic events known in the Universe). In the case of WR 104, it is possible that when the Wolf-Rayet star explodes, much of the energy and matter will be ejected at the polar ends – and Earth is virtually pole-on to the system.

Our understanding of the connection between supernovae and gamma-ray bursts is still in its infancy, but Tuthill and his colleagues suggest that there is a possibility that WR 104 might produce a gamma-ray burst – one that would be only 7,000 light-years from us (as good as on our doorstep).
The good news is that we probably have several hundred thousand years before the Wolf-Rayet star in question does explode.
So the star may only Supernova. It may not result in a Gamma Ray Burst. Even if it does, the Jet of Megadeath is so narrow that it may miss. And even if not, we should be able to make shelters, not just for humanity (or the variant of the human species we've evolved into by then), but the complete biosphere. A kilometre of rock will make an adequate shield. And settlements on the opposite side of the moon to the Deathstar will ride out both the initial second or two of the gamma ray burst, and the days of the cosmic ray storm that follow.

Of course the Earth would be a "fixer upper" as would any other planet in the solar system we'd terraformed.

We have a lot of time - but maybe we should start thinking about solutions, some of which could take many millennia to implement. Some people are.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Our Repeating Pentagonal Universe

From New Scientist via StumbleUpon comes a finding that may be just weird enough to be true.

It's long been thought that the Universe could be finite, though expanding. A good analogy is to imagine a flatland in 2 dimensions. Rather than this 2D universe being flat like a piece of paper of infinite size, it's more like the surface of a slowly expanding balloon. So if a flatland spaceship travelled in its 2D space in a straight line, it would eventually arrive back where it started. The inhabitants would deduce that their 2D space must be curved in some higher dimension they can't perceive, only deduce.

So what would be the effect of a higher dimensional curvature on our own 3D space? With a powerful enough telescope, we could look in certain directions, and see an image of things at the edge of perception. We'd expect to look in the opposite direction, and see the same thing. Except that doesn't work too well, as we'd expect to see the same sort of thing no matter which way we look, and that's not compatible with a sphere, the Universe would have to be faceted, one of the regular solids - a tetrahedron, a cube, an octahedron, a dodecahedron, or an icosahedron.

It would be likely that each facet would appoximate a disk - and the closest approximation is each pentagonal side of a dodecahedron.

The idea of a balled-up universe was first proposed in 2003 by Jean-Pierre Luminet at the Paris Observatory, France, as a way to explain some odd patterns in the cosmic microwave background - the afterglow of the big bang. The CMB contains warmer and cooler splotches, which reflect the density variations of the universe in its youth. This fits nicely with cosmological models, except that if you blur the microwave map into big enough pixels, the splotches disappear and the map looks less random than you'd expect - and nobody can explain why.

Luminet and his colleagues suggested that this might be because the universe is finite, but is wrapped around on itself. This means that if a spaceship could cross the universe and "exit" through one side, it would still be in the same region of space but would "re-enter" from the opposite side of the universe. Because of this wrap-around effect, images of everything in the universe would appear to be repeated in the CMB. The best way to explain the data was if the universe is like a dodecahedron - a ball-like shape with a surface of 12 identical pentagons.

Boudewijn Roukema, an astronomer at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Poland, and his colleagues have reached another conclusion: the team "cut" rings from a version of the WMAP data taken from opposite sides of the sky, twisted the cut-out rings relative to each other and looked for matches. They also considered variations in the orientation of the entire dodecahedron over the sky to ensure that some of their pairs of rings were cut from opposite flat sides of the dodecahedron instead of from its corners or edges.

They found that those rings were a close match if one ring was rotated by about 36 degrees around their perpendicular axis (see Diagram). Importantly, calculations for a dodecahedral universe predict that this is the angle you would see.

So how big is the Universe? Quite small, really. From the original 2003 New Scientist article, before the 36 degree twist was found:

If confirmed, they would indeed be stunning. They would mean that the Universe is relatively small, something like 70 billion light years across. What's more, we could in theory see the entire cosmos and check that there are no hidden corners where the laws of physics are different.

For instance, it would rule out exotic ideas such as chaotic inflation, which suggests our local Universe is just one of myriad expanding bubbles beyond eyeshot, each with slightly different physical laws.

It would also banish the philosophical paradoxes of an infinite Universe, such as the idea that every person on Earth has an infinite number of alien doubles leading parallel lives. "If we could prove that the Universe was finite and small, that would be earth-shattering," says David Spergel of Princeton University in New Jersey. "It would really change our view of the Universe."
Like many hypotheses in Science, it may not even be in the right ballpark (so to speak). But the evidence is getting stronger that this may indeed be the case.

Friday, 25 January 2008

T is for...


An expansion of a comment (with some corrections) I wrote over at Bilerico, where the fractures and fault-lines of T politics are all too evident.

A Taxonomy stating how we differ, and what we have in common.

1. First, we're all human beings. That needs saying because we too often lose sight of the fact that everyone, even those we don't identify with, even those we feel uncomfortable being around, have human rights. And I speak as a conservative neo-con, not a tree-hugging kumbayah-singing liberal.

2. Then some of us are GLBT - people who do not fit in in some way with the standard bigendered model, where men look and act in accordance with society's norm for men and are only attracted to women, and women look and act accordance with society's norm for women and are only attracted to men. About the only thing such people have in common with each other is that it's the same people who persecute them. Many in this conglomerate - that is, a matrix containing parts of very different nature - don't remotely understand each other, and there's both phobia - fear - and loathing even when they do understand.

There's Androphobic Lesbians who see men, even Gay men, as a threat, Gynaphobic Gays who see anything redolent of femininity as beneath contempt, Homophobic Transsexuals who resent being conflated with those they see as morally corrupt, you name it. And straight Intersexed people who don't see why having an unusual medical condition automatically drafts them into a political activist group made up of weirdoes like mentally ill Transsexuals, Fetishistic Crossdressers, and perverted GLBs.

3. The there are some who are T. This is where it really gets confusing. T for Transgender. And what that word means changes from day to day. The original definition meant straight males who like wearing female attire, and rejected any insane body-modifiers or perverted faggots. Now to the bulk of the populace, it means those weirdoes who get a sex change. To political activists, it means anyone who "transgresses gender norms" of appearance, behaviour or body, except (for historical reasons) in the specific area of sexual orientation. Very often, arguments are based on both sides using different definitions, and sometimes changing the definitions in mid-stream if it supports the point they're trying to make. Again, many feel dragooned into being categorised and confused with other groups they not only don't identify with, but actively dislike, sometimes with good reason.

It appears that the majority of the "Transgendered" in the last definition, and certainly the ones with the most power and money, are (and I hate using RadFem vocabulary, but it fits) Patriarchal males in positions of relative privilege, but who are afraid (with good reason) that they will be marginalised if they have a high profile. The heirs to J. Edgar Hoover. They have much influence, a great deal of money compared to other parts of the TG mixture, but are largely unseen. Cross them, you get squashed like a bug. They have no interest in any medical or marital issues, and wish to disassociate themselves from the highly visible segments. Especially Transsexuals. They're with Virginia Prince on that one.

4. T is for....

Q: What's the difference between a cross-dresser and a transsexual?
A: Oh, about 5 years...

There's a big difference between the part-time cross-dressing male, and a post-operative intersexed woman. But there's gradations in between, and sometimes it's impossible for an external observer to tell where one begins, and another ends. Operative status is a nice, clean, easy metric to use - but is inaccurate for many reasons. Having major surgery is a Big Deal, not without risks, and neither is it free nor available to those who most need it. Conversely, there are many women who can live with physical deformities - be they having three breasts or one, or even having masculinised genitalia. Unless they intend having some form of love life, and that can be really dangerous for anyone who's transgendered, the benefits may be outweighed by the disadvantages.

My own view is that hormonal body modification is more a important divider, but even that isn't wholly reliable. So yes, there is a difference, but no, I can't give a simple test for it. You know it when you see it - the guys tend to bubble about silky underwear and frilly dresses, the women about feminism and childcare. However, those who are TS and unable to transition at puberty - and that means most - are evolving in their own identity. 80% cross-dress before transition.

I'll quote a very dubious source: Dr McHugh, who has been rightly demonised as intensely transphobic:
The post-surgical subjects struck me as caricatures of women. They wore high heels, copious makeup, and flamboyant clothing; they spoke about how they found themselves able to give vent to their natural inclinations for peace, domesticity, and gentleness—but their large hands, prominent Adam’s apples, and thick facial features were incongruous (and would become more so as they aged)
Well, I don't wear heels - except on special occasions. Makeup ditto, and my flamboyant clothing tends towards black T-shirts or blouses and a simple skirt, but I reserve the right to wear anything I choose. As for the rest, that's spot-on in my case - though what that has to do with gender identity escapes me. Others differ, and most who transition young (and some who transition old) are pretty rather than pretty awful. But all women feel like that. In our hearts, yes, we'd love to feel sexy, attractive, young... and some of us do, no matter what the calendar or the mirror say. But some of us think we could do with a little help there. To continue:
The subjects before the surgery struck me as even more strange, as they struggled to convince anyone who might influence the decision for their surgery. First, they spent an unusual amount of time thinking and talking about sex and their sexual experiences; their sexual hungers and adventures seemed to preoccupy them. Second, discussion of babies or children provoked little interest from them; indeed, they seemed indifferent to children. But third, and most remarkable, many of these men-who-claimed-to-be-women reported that they found women sexually attractive and that they saw themselves as “lesbians.”
And everyone knows that lesbian women don't exist, right? *Sigh* I really wonder if the good doctor ever actually met someone who was transsexual. I've seen what he's describing on some Transgendered support sites, and they don't want surgery. Transgendered, yes. Transsexual? Not as such. These days they can be themselves without having to pretend, and say what the Psychs want to hear. I don't understand them at all, but they're harmless, and mostly quite nice men. Weird though. (Zoe... er... some people would consider you a lot weirder... never mind)

A more pragmatic view would be to look at what concerns those under the great TG umbrella.

The Intersexed are concerned about medical, and to a lesser extent, legal issues. Many have had medical treatment without their knowledge or consent, sometimes sterilising them, sometimes removing all genital sensation, and sometimes leaving them Transsexual, looking like the wrong sex. Many have issues with hormones or electrolyte balances that can be life-threatening, and must confront medical ignorance that can kill them. They sometimes have to fight protracted legal battles to have even the most unimpeachable marriages validated. Generally, they try to stay out of the limelight.

The Transsexual are a subcategory of the Intersexed as far as I'm concerned, I consider the evidence overwhelming. Their concerns again are medical and legal, but unlike most of the Intersexed, they can't hide their condition until after it's been treated. When in transition, they are particularly vulnerable: they go from being unremarkable, to being far too visible, to being unremarkable again- if they wish to be, and if the treatment gives a good result. Often it can't. They are forced by the medical "standards of care" to use target-gender restrooms before surgery can be authorised, hence the concern about rest-rooms. After transition, they suffer all the problems that the Intersexed do.

They suffer the most discrimination in employment, in violence, in legalised persecution (Wisconsin's odious "Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act" - the only legislation anywhere in the USA that specifically forbids necessary medical treatment to a paticular minority group - comes to mind), and in many other ways.

How would the GLB majority react to a similar law preventing treatment of Gay inmates for HIV? Yet most GLB activists won't have heard of it.

Now none of these pressing concerns affect GLBs, except perhaps negatively. Gay men are sometimes perceived as being "men who want to be women", and that attack on their masculinity can lead them to persecute Transsexual women just to prove their detractors wrong. (Can't it, Barney?) The "mentally ill" weirdoes who want to get their dicks cut off are an embarrassment to them. Unless those falsetto voices are silenced, they will damage the cause the Mattachine movement has worked for so long to see reified - Gays as just normal people, not mentally ill, the people next door.

And don't get me started on the pecking-order politics of fully-stealth post-ops who are "just women" looking down on post-ops who can't be bothered with hiding their past, and they in turn looking down on pre-ops, who look down on non-ops, who look down on cross-dressers, who look down on fetishists, who look down on effeminate gays.... Enough.

As for me? Technically I'm Intersexed, and one of the weird "ideopathic" varieties. One that causes a natural apparent sex-change, without treatment. I identify more as Transsexual, because I see no essential difference between a transition that's 80% natural and one that's 100% artificial. Especially since so many TS people are mildly IS in other ways anyway. And my sexual orientation went from asexual/lesbian to straight in the process. So I have little time for categories that are merely good approximations being used as absolutes.

I do think that it might be better for all concerned if we were a confederation rather than a union though. We should support each other, with various degrees of enthusiasm, but work towards our own ends, and acknowledge that sometimes what will benefit one group will disadvantage another. We should then get that sorted out internally before facing external foes, and even agree to take different stances on different issues, openly, and without rancour. As it is, and as the ENDA debacle has shown, hypocrisy, treachery and mendacity result if we don't. Some in power still take different stances, while pretending they don't, so disenfranchise and denigrate those who they victimise to avoid admitting what they're doing. They even speak for their victims, against their interests, to advance their own.

Anyway... that's an explanation of why some people resent being called "Transgendered", and why some don't like the recent fashion of using the word as a cognate for "Transsexual" by people who are only trying to be polite and PC. To avoid the S..x word.

It's not as if the situation wasn't complicated enough without the politics.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Take 5

This week in Take 5 magazine: The Story of a Dad who didn't know she was a woman. As if anything like that could occur....

I thought they did a very professional job - they captured the essence of what happened very accurately, and in only 2 pages.

Well, it puts a new light on the phrase "didn't know whether they were Arthur or Martha ".

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Today's Battle

A very civilised one, with a courteous opposition, over at The Opine Editorials.
Well, it makes a change from arguing medieval canon law.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Three in a Thousand

Well, how to make 3 men look like a 1000 anyway...

That makes me wonder just how much of the best and most spectacular footage we see from Reuters is a Pallywood Production. And how much more sophisticated future propaganda efforts will be.

A Curtsey to Rocket Jones for the link.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Quantum Weirdness

From the Australian Sceptics list.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

A Small Contribution

Some time ago, I gave a little advice to someone involved in the MESSENGER - MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging satellite project. Not exactly a huge contribution, but it helped them out of a tricky situation with the on-board computer. It was enough so I was sent an official T-shirt, the equivalent of a mission patch as being part of the team. Which was rather kind of them, considering my miniscule contribution.

Here's a view from MESSENGER now

From Space Daily :

A day after its successful flyby of Mercury, the Messenger spacecraft turned toward Earth on Tuesday and began downloading the 500 megabytes of data that had been stored on the solid-state recorder during the encounter.

All of those data, including 1,213 images from the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) cameras, have now been received by the Science Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

Preliminary analysis of these data by the Messenger Science Team has confirmed that all seven Messenger instruments are healthy and operated as planned during the flyby.
We only had 200 or so Megabytes of storage on FedSat, but as we were out of ground contact for all but 15-20 mins a day, the principles were the same.

So I am claiming about one t-shirt's worth of the credit for that.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Chinese Spaceplane in Pictures

Shenlong Space Vehicle

On H-6 (Tupolev Tu-16 Copy Derivative) Mothership

Chinese Spaceplane Concepts

Photos from Centre for Strategic Development

Compare and contrast with...

European HERMES project

European Saenger II

US 1960's Boost-Glide Projects (Dyna-Soar on right)

Pictures from Mark Wade's excellent Encyclopedia Astronautica

A lot is convergent evolution - a particular engineering problem has many solutions, but they tend to have distinct familial resemblances. Not that they don't copy things too - or at least, "draw inspiration" whenever they can.

The point is though, that China is re-capitulating work done in the US and elsewhere over the last 40 years.

They're serious, and are playing a long-term game. Still a long way behind, but unlike the USA, their space programme is not primarily a device for distributing pork to congressional districts. Some useful, practical products are expected, not ever more "design studies" and on-again off-again project cancellations.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Shameless Appeal for Cash

There's someone who needs $300 US, and needs it very soon. I've emptied my paypal account, and that's the only way I can help her in the timeframe needed. So if anyone has been thinking of making a donation, large (and for me that means over $10) or small, now is a very good time.

UPDATE - You don't have to have a PayPal account to donate - I upgraded my account to accept credit card payments awhile ago. Least I could do, really.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008


Atypical Gender Development - A Review (PDF) by Besser, M., Carr, S., Cohen-Kettenis, P.T., Connolly, P., De Sutter, P., Diamond, M., Di Ceglie, D. (Ch & Adol.), Higashi, Y., Jones, L., Kruijver. F.P.M., Martin, J., Playdon, Z-J., Ralph, D., Reed, T., Reid, R., Reiner, W.G., Swaab, D., Terry, T., Wilson, P., Wylie. K.

Cite as GIRES et al. (2006). Atypical Gender Development - A Review, International Journal of Transgenderism, 9(1) p29-44.

The best and most comprehensive overview of the medical issues I've yet found.

Now to look at the many other articles on the DES-Sons Yahoo group. In my copious free time, of course.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

It Takes Guts to be a RWDB

And it looks like Tim Blair will have a few less in a while. Still, he has plenty.

See many previous posts about putting one's troubles into pespective.

Tim gave me some significant support a few years ago. I hope I can return the favour, I'm just sorry it's neccessary.

Monday, 14 January 2008

He Said, She Said

From a new thread at California Catholic Daily:
In response to the article’s insistence on using male pronouns when referring to the “transsexual” Charlene Hastings, one commentator wrote the following:
“Regardless of your religious beliefs, Ms. Hastings deserves the simple courtesy of referring to her as the woman she is, legally, emotionally and psychologically, not as ‘he’ and ‘him.’ I am appalled at such blatant disrespect by this supposedly Christian publication.”
I fully understand why the commentator might be offended by what she deems our discourtesy. I fail to understand, however, why she would think it discourtesy – at least, why she would think that we intended any discourtesy by referring to the putative female Hastings as a he. It would certainly be discourteous if we thought that Hastings had a claim to a female identity and refused to grant it to him. But the fact is, we don’t think Hastings can justly make that claim. What’s more, we think calling Hastings a she would be tantamount to a lie; and no one should expect someone to speak what he thinks is a lie.

The author is no bigot. Bigots aren't nearly so polite when they do hurtful things. He's not insensitive either, he just feels persecuted, and is fighting back. The more the evidence is against him, the more persecuted he feels, and the more he has to invoke higher laws than mere medical and scientific data.

I'll quote him, after he had the nous to read my site :
Forgive me, but I find this too ludicrous to take seriously. No number of scientist experts will convince me to accept something so beyond the pale of common sense. Some of us in this insane world still cling that wonderful, old democratic thing -- common sense. You would have us replace this with the conclusions of "experts" -- who will, most likely, be contradicted by other experts in the near future. I'm sorry, sir, but I will have none of it. Call me behind the times, intransigent, whatever else you want; but I'll have none of it. I prefer to maintain my sanity.
I forgive him, of course. Even for calling me "sir". The situation is bizarre, unbelievable. He's honest, forthright, and if forced by his beliefs to be discourteous, it obviously goes against the grain. I will call him Old-Fashioned, but that's because he believes in things like Courage, and Integrity, and not following the latest fad. The Old-Fashioned virtues I believe in too. It's just that Reality gave me a whack in the mazzard with a wet fish.

Today, I had a nice chat with the mother of one of my little boy's best friends, and one of her relatives. She'd got the story third-hand from her son, via my son, but was reticent to ask about it, just in case things had gotten garbled, as they are wont to do when talking with 6 year olds. We discussed mutual life histories, what I was studying at Uni, how I worked with true geniuses but was able sometimes to substitute intuition for intellect and see things they couldn't...and one then remarked that maybe my son inherited the same unusual neurology. I then looked up at the sky, and said "OH I HOPE NOT!!!". That made evasions and attempts to talk around the elephant in the room impossible. After all, our family consisted of two women and one small boy, not quite the usual arrangement. That was a Dead Giveaway.

They didn't find the change difficult to believe, though when I showed them the pics of what I looked like before, that caused some double-takes. I'm too ordinary, just another Mum with a rambuctious first-grader to have been anything else.

No, the thing that totally boggled their minds was the absolute rubbish we have to put up with from the bigots, the "concerned citizens", government departments, the works. They knew how Blacks were treated in 50's Alabama. They knew how Jews were treated in Germany before the Holocaust got underway. But to think that in the society they lived in, a normal, sane, reasonable society, such persecution happened with no-one else aware of it was just incredible to them. They were shocked when I showed them the "Document of Identity" I was initially given. The document that allowed exit from the country, but in the fine print said "It does not constitute authority to re-enter Australia".

Some, when encountering the unbelievable, retreat into intellectual fortresses of denial for safety. Others reach out with hugs and attempts at understanding. Yet both types can be good people. I was lucky to have the second type around me, and both gave and received hugs. I confess that sometimes I need them.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Today's Battle - Yet again

Another day, another occasion when I'm called a freak (that's fair enough), a deviant, a pervert, accused of having a sinful heart, the usual. This time over at California Catholic Daily, where the Daughters of Charity are acting most uncharitably.

I've never been accused of having a "one-track mind... for evil!" before though.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Today's Battle

Over at A more important one than most - because of comments like this:
I hate to bust your bubble, but mutilating oneself still does not change a boy into a girl - it just makes a mutilated boy. These people have sinful hearts that need to be changed! They need to get off that self-focus and the idea that sex is everything.

The leftists have gone beyond all sane and rational thought in an effort to please everyone, including the deviant and perverted.
Those who have "gender perception" issues should be given genetic testing. Once they have discovered what sex they actually are they should be treated medically and psychologically so that they can accept the truth about their sex according to their chromosomes.

The infinitesimally small number of people who are true, biological hermaphrodites and the nearly as small number of people whose genotype does not match their phenotype should be treated with compassion, but in such a way that encourages them to fit into normal society -- just as other people with unusual challenges such as dwarfism and gigantism do.

Encouraging confused and deluded people to wander in the wilderness of their delusions while encouraging them to act as freaks in front of the rest of society is false compassion. Encouraging them to get the necessary treatment to cure their mental abnormalities so that they can function as a normal, productive member of society is true compassion.
Dwarfs and Giants are not usually called "deviant and perverted" with "sinful hearts" though. But the most important reason is comments like this:
Hi Lauren. I agree with you that young boys experiencing gender identity confusion have special needs. I have given the matter considerable thought. I think a young boy who thinks he's a girl needs a serious a@@ whipping. Parents who hear a child whining that he feels like a girl trapped in a boy's body should attend to his needs by whipping his a@@ immediately.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Mission Patches

We are unfair, and unfair.
We are black magicians,
black arts we make
in black labs of the heart.

The fair are fair,
and deathly white.

The day will not save them
and we own the night.

Amiri Baraka State/Meant

From Universe, a page I really must put on my blogroll ASAP:

The most recent issue of Cabinet Magazine has a really good article by artist and CIA expert Trevor Palgen about the iconography of military insignia, particularly of those branches of the military that "don't exist." How do you celebrate your work with traditional military regalia, Palgen asks, while retaining the secrecy which defines it? It's an interesting question.

Well, sometimes you don't. Take for example this embroidered patch, distributed by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the US "black" space agency primarily responsible for the operation of military reconnaissance satellites (and God-knows-what-else). The patch was released by the NRO to commemorate the launch of a Titan 4B from Vandenberg Air Force Base -- one that boosted, according to the Air Force, a classified payload into orbit.

Classified, that is, unless you can read into the NRO's weird symbolism. Apparently, the patch -- right down to the angles of those boomerang shapes -- is a dead giveaway about the launch payload, that, it has now been confirmed, were four "Lacrosse" recon-satellittes, which give the U.S. military the ability to monitor problem spots around the world and accurately target weapons in almost real time. Yikes, that is a whole other ball of yarn entirely that I am not going to tangle with now.
I won't include the hyperlinks - "fair use" has its limits, and the original article is whorthy of more attention. I might just look at Cabinet Magazine too.

This post was originally inspired by an article over at Space Review, Secrets and Signs, which has far more such "giveaway" patches.

One that doesn't appear there is my favourite. And this is the one that, if I had my way, all "sensitive" missions would have as their only unclassified patch, along with the actual mission designation. The "real" mission patches would remain only in the various classified museums (well, at least for 50 years or so), and in the payload-makers hearts. It's important that they be made, but not that anyone else should know. Not just yet.

Monday, 7 January 2008

This Warrior Is As Vicious As Possible

"Bad to the Bone". In the original Klingon.
On the day I was born
the nurses all gathered round
and they gazed in wild wonder
at the joy they had found.
The head nurse spoke up,
said "leave this one alone."
She could tell right away
that I was bad to the bone.
jIboghDI' SIbI'
Datvo' ghompu' ghojmoq.
'ej yay'taHvIS mInDu'
DunwI' Doj lughoq.
pay' jatlh ghojmoqpIn:
«ghuvam vID yIHaj!»
DotlhwIj tlhojchu'mo':
jInaSchu' vaj.
As soon as I was born, immediately
governesses assembled from everywhere.
And while their eyes were amazed,
they spied on the impressive great one.
Suddenly the chief governess said:
"Dread ye this belligerent baby!"
Because she realised my status correctly:
this warrior is as vicious as possible.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Legal Insanity

Over on ShrinkRap, the blog of three psychiatrists I wrote a far-too-long comment on the subject of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 2007.

My question is basically, what legally defines a mental illness? And what legally defines "appropriate therapy" in that context? And that got me thinking - always a dangerous situation - about my own life, and the legal trials and tribulations I and others are heir to.

First, I'll quote the post:
Can I sound off about my standard obsession now please?

How do you define Mental Illness? I mean, from a legal standpoint, rather than one based on Reality?

Does it include everything in the DSM-IV? Does it exclude everything else?

Real World Example re Prisons:
One view. Another view. Yet another view:
A leading US psychiatrist who conducted an in-depth investigation into the results of sex-change therapy concluded that the psychiatric community was cooperating with mental illness by diagnosing transsexualism as a legitimate physical condition. “We psychiatrists… would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia,” Dr. Paul McHugh, University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University wrote in First Things, 2004.
First Things is not a medical journal, but a religious one.

Nonetheless, Dr McHugh's views have been used as the basis for an IRS ruling that any medical treatment for transsexualism is not tax-deductible, and has been quoted in virtually every legal case dealing with the subject - including the one in the other references.

The "in-depth investigation" was conducted over 30 years ago, and has been contradicted by every single investigation available in PubMed ever since then, but he is Henry Phipps Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Psychiatrist-in-Chief of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. His views are most cogently expressed in Psychiatric Misadventures.
The zeal for this sex-change surgery--perhaps, with the exception of frontal lobotomy, the most radical therapy ever encouraged by twentieth century psychiatrists--did not derive from critical reasoning or thoughtful assessments. These were so faulty that no one holds them up anymore as standards for launching any
therapeutic exercise, let alone one so irretrievable as a sex-change operation. The energy came from the fashions of the seventies that invaded the clinic--if you can do it and he wants it, why not do it? It was all tied up with the spirit of doing your thing, following your bliss, an aesthetic that sees diversity as everything and can accept any idea, including that of permanent sex change, as interesting and that views resistance to such ideas as uptight if not oppressive. Moral matters should have some salience here.
We need to know how to prevent such sadness, indeed horror. We have to learn how to manage this condition as a mental disorder when we fail to prevent it. If it depends on child rearing, then let's hear about its inner dynamics so that parents can be taught to guide their children properly. If it is an aspect of confusion tied to homosexuality, we need to understand its nature and exactly how to manage it as a manifestation of serious mental disorder among homosexual individuals. But instead of attempting to learn enough to accomplish these worthy goals, psychiatrists collaborated in a exercise of folly with distressed people during a time when "do your own thing" had something akin to the force of a command.
When these words were written, it was possible to defend them. There's a lot in there that I agree with - I'm rather conservative myself. But the (necessarily low sample size thus not definitive) autopsy and MRI results and so on that appear to show biological causation have been matched with a very, very low rate of cure from psychiatric techniques - comparable to that of curing cancer by prayer. Despite searches over 40 years, there's no pattern, no evidence that it's tied to either child-rearing or homosexuality, or anything else in environment in the general case. So much of what was in psych textbooks of even as late as 20 years ago has been debunked, yet myths not supported by evidence persists.

I was amazed and dismayed when giving a 10-min "tail end" briefing to some med students after a Psych Prof's end-of-course lecture on abnormal sexual development to have to correct so much misiniformation. FtoM transitions are not "so rare as to be almost unknown", though whether the incidence is 25% or 50% of the total figure is unclear now (it's 55% in Poland - who ordered that?). Our future psychs are being taught such guff, it's disheartening.

In this context, who decides whether this deeply distressing condition (and others) is a mental illness from a legal standpoint, and if so, what treatment(s) are appropriate?

I might nail my colours to the mast here. We're still not certain what caused what some would call my "involuntary sex change", welcome though it was, and partial though it had to be in purely biological terms. There's been no psych studies I can find of the far more common partial/apparent "involuntary sex changes" of males with 5 alpha reductase deficiency, or 17BHDD. Some passing remarks about how it makes no difference to some, yet to a minority is a medical emergency, but that's it.

Anyway, I feel that this gives me if not a unique, then an unusual view.

I see transsexuality as a physical intersex condition, but one that causes Gender Dysphoria, a form of chronic misery, and often Gender Identity Disorder, a full-blown psychiatric condition that is terribly debilitating. Remove the root cause, and those conditions disappear, though co-morbidities caused by a lifetime of sheer misery will remain.

I might be wrong, but this fits the facts. I've yet to see evidence that the Gender Dysphoria can be removed without treating the root cause too, it's certainly usually intractable.

This rambling essay was just to explain by real-world example the vexed question of what is a legal "mental illness" and what is "appropriate therapy" in the context of the law in question. It also has personal interest of course. For one thing, I've just won a 20-month fight involving legal letters, court cases etc to be granted an Australian passport. It normally takes 3 weeks. The fact that I had to go through legal difficulties like that, that it seems normal, expected even for people such as myself, seems, well, Crazy. Call it a "persecution simple".

I have dual citizenship, UK/Australian. In Australia, should I get divorced, I could only marry a man - in order to prevent "same-sex marriage". In the UK, I could only marry a woman, also to prevent "same sex marriage". This is causing some degree of hilarity, but also genuine disorientation. I could do with reassurance that this kind of legal stuff is insane, rather than just me.
The other issue that has been busy percolating through my brain has been the legal hoops that must be jumped through in the US state of Illinois regarding changing Birth Certificates.

First, for the situation to be corrected, the person concerned must have had sufficient genital reconstruction surgery, and of the right type. Now while that's arguably a problem, especially for Intersexed people, and those whose medical conditions preclude such surgery, let's take it as read that it's reasonable. It's certainly not wholly unreasonable.

Except... that the surgery isn't what's important. What is important is who performs it, not what is done. The surgeon must be one registered in the US to practice medicine. Certification of what was done by a US doctor isn't sufficient. This was introduced as the result of a deliberately fraudulent certification by one US doctor, once, a matter of compassion. Ok, so maybe that might be seen as reasonable, though surely certification by multiple US doctors would be a better solution.

Except... from a support group I'm on, for patients of the surgeon I went to...
Well, I have discussed the below situation with legal counsel and the Illinois law is quite clear. An affidavit from another physician does not meet the law's requirements. I have posted a file in the file section of what I'm doing next.

Here are the outcomes of my research:

Upon submission of the application for Birth Certificate Change for the state of Illinois an investigator is assigned to research each application and to confirm the affidavits are valid. In my case, even getting Dr. Suporn licensed in Michigan would not meet the requirements because he would not have been licensed in a state
within the United States at the time my surgery was performed.
So what sex a person is, who they are allowed to marry, is not determined by the reality of their body: it's not determined by who performed the surgery even: it depends on what, who, and when. And all to stop "same sex marriage".

Whisky Tango Foxtrot?

At some point, you have to realise that you're playing a game by someone else's rules, a game where things like compassion, rationality, even sanity have no place. A game where the rules can be changed by the enemy at whim, where there really are no rules, no consistency, just pure irrational spite.

I'm lucky that I'm living in a jurisdiction where the highest court in the land said, essentially, "blow what has been said or done before: new evidence has come in, and it is obvious that common sense tells us we should go with reality, not inaccurate records or theories". I've quoted this before, but it's worth saying again, as the message obviously has not gotten through yet.
I agree with Ms Wallbank that in the present context the word "man" should be given its ordinary contemporary meaning. In determining that meaning, it is relevant to have regard to many things that were the subject of evidence and submissions. They include the context of the legislation, the body of case law on the meaning of "man" and similar words, the purpose of the legislation, and the current legal, social and medical environment. These matters are considered in the course of the judgment. I believe that this approach is in accordance with common sense, principles of statutory interpretation, and with all or virtually all of the authorities in which the issue of sexual identity has arisen. As Professor Gooren and a colleague put it:-
“There should be no escape for medical and legal authorities that these definitions ought to be corrected and updated when new information becomes available, particularly when our outdated definitions bring suffering to some of our fellow human beings”.’
And that got me to thinking further again, of some of the cases I'm aware of, some of which I've mentioned on this blog, others I haven't. There's a matter of confidentiality, and parading others' problems in public without their consent is unethical.But to give you an idea:
  • In Western Australia, it is the practice of the Western Australian Family Court to remove all children of a transsexual parent into state care should that parent dare transition. Why? to protect them. From what? Well.. you know...from something. Even if the only evidence that exists shows children aren't harmed by it. Even if there's never been a single case of a transsexual parent abusing a child in that state. It's to be safe, because transsexuals are mentally ill, like paedophiles. Had I lived in WA, my son would have been taken away from us, and put into a very dysfunctional system. Yet my transition was involuntary. Under those circumstances, suicide might have been the least worst option I could take for my son's welfare (though I would have seen if mere disappearance would have sufficed - of course I'd die to protect my son, but I'd make sure that was the only option first!). No wonder the suicide rate is so high there, perhaps as high as 90%.
  • There's the case in the US where a hospital refused to issue a newborn baby a birth a birth certificate. Her crime? Her father is transsexual, and is a biological woman. Now a woman can't be a father, but the father is known, so they can't put "unknown", so no Birth Certificate. Now there's a procedure in that quite progressive state for lesbian couples to have children. a space for "parent" not father. But that requires that she go through the long, involved, and expensive process of formal adoption of her own daughter, an application that has every chance of being refused, with unknowable consequences.
  • Up until the 80's, it was possible for transsexual women to be prescribed Cyproterone Acetate, an anti-androgen drug, without any legal hassle. Now it can only be prescribed for those who volunteer for chemical castration, and patients given it are put on a list of sex offenders (and never taken off). The alternative is to pay $400 a month, outside most patients reach. It was mine. Once post-operative, they can also get it for treatment of "androgenisation", but of course they remain on the list.
  • Infertile couples have access to IVF in Australia, again subsidised by everyone's taxes, contributions to the "Medicare Levy". Lesbian couples have to pay tens of thousands of dollars more. But what happens when the father is transsexual? You got it, in that particular case, no subsidy. I know of one post-operative woman who has delayed getting formal recognition as female specifically to avoid this situation. It's gaming the system, but only because the system is gaming her.
  • Did I mention my 20-month battle to get a passport of any kind?
You get used to it. You get too used to it. You tell yourself that the situation is unusual, you have to make allowances, and if you're not very careful, you get to believe that you deserve it, because of the myriad little ways you get humiliated or mistreated in every country on Earth. Some places, name change is trivial. Other places, it requires a court hearing, and a bigotted judge can refuse you permission simply because he doesn't approve of "that kind of thing". Some places, changing birth certificate is trivial if you're post op. Some places it's even possible if pre-op. Some places it's impossible. Some places it's possible even if pre-op, but not if you're married (like the UK). It's Legal Insanity.

You tell yourself that compared with people with Lung cancer, you have it easy. But the comparison is unjust: for changing sex, while psychologically uniquely stressful and medically risky, is not the problem. The problem is not even the violence, for anyone can be unlucky (Ok, so you're seventeen times as likely to be unlucky, so maybe it's a problem after all). The problem is those who argue that you're insane (so don't deserve treatment), or not insane (so don't deserve treatment). That you're as mad as a meataxe, as much as a psychotic schizophrenic, yet unlike a psychotic schizophrenic don't qualify as disabled under the "Americans with Disabilities Act", because there's a special exemptive clause just for your condition (see Donna Rose Dec 20 2007 8:30am). That you're gay, especially if attracted to the opposite sex, but don't qualify for legal protection under any clauses that protect gays in any event. That in order to get treatment for your insanity, you must get two specialist pychiatrists to put their reputations on the line, in writing, to say that you're sane. You get used to the inconsistency. If there's a disadvantage, it applies, if there's a mitigation, it doesn't.

You become so used to making allowance for others feelings - for all you want to do is have something like a normal life too - that in order to save minor inconvenience or some disquiet in others, you accept the most objectively apalling treatment of yourself. Treated in so many ways - though which ones depend on where you are - as a 4th class citizen, unless you make a conscious effort not to, you believe that you are a 3rd class citizen who just has to put up with a few inconveniences.

Instead of the 2nd class citizen you are because you're a woman. Actually, come to think of it, maybe I shouldn't accept that state of affairs either as "normal", just because it has been since time immemorial.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Mars and a 1 in 25 Shot

2007 WD5. That's the name of a 50metre wide chunk of rock that now has a 1 in 25 chance of slamming into Mars at a relative velocity of nearly 50,000 km/hr early next year.

Plugging the approximate orbital data into the asteroid impact calculator, which gives results for an equivalent Earth Impact, we get:

Projectile Diameter: 50.00 m = 164.00 ft = 0.03 miles
Projectile Density: 3000 kg/m3
Impact Velocity: 15.00 km/s = 9.31 miles/s
Impact Angle: 60 degrees

Energy before atmospheric entry: 2.21 x 1016 Joules = 5.28 MegaTons TNT
The average interval between impacts of this size somewhere on Earth is 395.9 years

Atmospheric Entry:
The projectile begins to breakup at an altitude of 52000 meters = 171000 ft
The projectile bursts into a cloud of fragments at an altitude of 4290 meters = 14100 ft
The residual velocity of the projectile fragments after the burst is 4.06 km/s = 2.52 miles/s
The energy of the airburst is 2.05 x 1016 Joules = 4.89 x 100 MegaTons.
No crater is formed, although large fragments may strike the surface.

The atmosphere on Mars is a *lot* thinner, so that ~5 Megaton equivalent blast will be a ground burst, leaving a crater about a kilometre wide.
In the unlikely event of an impact, the time would be 2008 January 30 at 10:56 UTC with an uncertainty of a few minutes.
Odds are that Mars will dodge this particular bullet. But don't worry, they actually hit about once every 400 years. The same for Earth of course.

We now have the technology to detect these things, and even do something about them if need be. It wouldn't take much to nudge something so small so it doesn't break windows in highly urbanised areas, but goes "boom" over water. It's the ones that are bigger and rarer that we have to worry about. The Dinosaur Killers. Things like the one that hit Chicxulub

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Today's Battle

Where Zoe meddles in the Internal Affairs of the great state of Rhode Island.

You see, an "elder statesman" in the Democratic Party in that state wrote an article in the Providence Journal decrying all this modernist nonsense about gender. David Carlin is a former Democratic majority leader of the Rhode Island Senate.

He argues cogently that "hard cases make bad law". And that to make specific exceptions out of compassion for small minorities is a mistake, because the majority suffer.

Well, freeing the slaves caused untold suffering to the slaveowners, and destruction of Southern society, didn't it? But I digress. In general, he has a point. Read the article anyway.

Well, naturally I couldn't let that one pass to the keeper. So I wrote a little reply, which the Providence Journal was kind enough to publish.

I refer to David Carlin’s Dec. 22 article, “Those bathrooms for the transgendered.”

He says:
“I am assured by America’s most up-to-date and ‘progressive’ people that this is not a mental illness. It is a perfectly natural feeling in a small percentage of any population. And if you persist in thinking of this as a mental abnormality, then you are the abnormal one. You suffer from a moral abnormality — bigotry.

“I confess, dear reader, that I can’t get used to this very up-to-date idea.”
I can understand that. Outrageous claims such as the world being round, or that microorganisms — “germs” — were responsible for disease faced similar quite understandable scepticism. As did the claim that blacks were not inferior to whites, another proposition opposed by many Democrats.

May I bring to the attention of Mr. Carlin the following peer-reviewed medical articles, detailing results of autopsies:

Zhou J.-N, Hofman M.A, Gooren L.J, Swaab D.F (1997) “A Sex Difference in the Human Brain and its Relation to Transsexuality.” (PDF);

Kruijver F.P.M, Zhou J.-N, Pool C.W., Swaab D.F. (2000) “Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus” (PDF)

Yes, it is a “perfectly natural” phenomenon, much as spina bifida, harelip, or other congenital abnormalities are. It’s also highly embarrassing, possibly why some 30 percent with it kill themselves. It’s also not so rare: Counts of those actually treated for it (rather than the 40-year old estimates quoted in most textbooks) indicate there are tens of thousands of Americans with it.

Mr. Carlin is no bigot. Neither, despite his protestations, is he in his dotage. He is intelligent and articulate. Being a little old-fashioned is no sin, but that is not the problem.

The problem is pardonable ignorance. Hopefully, this letter may help solve the problem.


Downer, Australia

I've already had some evidence through e-mail that this has made a difference.

Now if they'd only spelt my name correctly... still, even Jove nods.