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May 25, 2008

Insert Pink Floyd reference here
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:33 AM *

We’re sitting at the picnic table, J and I, keeping the remains of our lunch from blowing away. J’s wife S is off shepherding the two year old through the adventure playground. The four older kids pop in and out of view in the distance, crossing bridges, climbing structures, running over the sunlit grass. We’re talking about debating evolution with creationists, and about online community dynamics, and he starts telling me about cichlids.

“They’re a kind of fish,” he explains. “If you have enough of ‘em in the tank, they form a nice, happy community. But if the population drops below a certain level, one of the fish declares himself king. Then he picks one of the other fish and starts beating up on it till he kills it. He’ll do this over and over till you have the tank split, with one nasty king on one side and the diminishing population of other fish on the other.”

One of the kids comes running toward us across the grass, and the conversation turns to cooties. She’s never heard of them. Explanations and folklore follow.

Later, we’ve all moved to a blanket on the grass under the trees, with wine, strawberries, madalenas and strong cheese. J and S are leaning into each other with the bone-deep comfort that the really good couples exude. I’m watching all five kids as they sit on a bridge and dip sticks into one of the canals. We sketch out the bones of the previous conversation for S.

“Oh, God, the cichlids!” She laughs. “I hated that! I’d look into the tank and wonder which one was going to get picked off next. It was awful.”

And then J tells the other half of the story, about the seminar he was in with another, slower student. “The guy kept asking questions about really obvious things. He was driving us all crazy. One day I just snapped. I turned to him and took a piece right out of him. And then I realized that I was being just like the king cichlid, pickin’ on the weaker guy. That these patterns of behavior repeat, from the littlest creatures right on up to us humans.”

He is interrupted by howls of outrage from the bridge. The eldest kid has taken a leafy branch and dipped it in the water, then held it to her head like an angler fish’s light. She’s going up to the others and getting their faces wet with this contraption. The four year old does not like this, and is running toward us in tears. I comfort the afflicted while S has a word with the offender.

Comments on Insert Pink Floyd reference here:
#1 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 08:04 AM:

I'm not sure that I really agree with J's own self criticism; that guy wasn't actually the weak one. People who have trouble in a seminar and suffer in silence are weak. People who constantly disrupt an environment, causing difficulty for others around them, are showing a kind of aggression.

One questions, then, whether or not the target cichlids are causing another kind of disruption, and the "king" is actually being a kind of "watchman."

Kids, of course, are monsters and have been known to dismember and devour each other without warning.

#2 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 08:08 AM:

Not that the participants don't have some responsibility in the matter, but in a workshop or a seminar, there's a teacher or two whose job it is to keep things civilized.

#3 ::: RichM ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 08:15 AM:

That child should have been reprimanded by an adult with "That's not funny - that's cichlid."

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 08:19 AM:

I was never very good at letting the school's other fish establish dominance over me. For one thing, I fought back. For another, I was socially so clueless that I didn't realize that dominance was what was going on.

#5 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 08:44 AM:

In elementary school, I was new and therefore not allowed to be part of the girls' group (dominant girls appeared very early in this class). I ended up (1) ignoring attempts to dominate me and (2) socializing with the boys up through 6th grade.

I also left that school system and eventually learned to socialize with female humans. I'd like to think I'm not too bad at it anymore.

As I learned more about primate social behaviors, I realized that primates share a lot with us. In macaques for example, all the females in the troop are related. Young males are related, and then they leave the troop when they start puberty, and join an all-male troop. They fight their way up the hierarchy and then join some family troop as the alpha (or not). This means that females don't have a social repertoire for dealing with strangers, and males do. Now contrast that with the points made by Elayne Boosler: men will hang out at the basketball court with other guys and never know much more than first names. Women will never go shopping with a bunch of stranger females. It's an exaggeration, of course, but it's based on observation of human behavior.

(She also pointed out that men have the "jump up and hit the awning" gene, whereas women have the "buy more than one in the same color" gene.)

Primates have elaborate sets of social behaviors. Rhesus will engage each other with facial movements and body postures, which can resolve "fights" without fighting*. With a little study, anyone can figure this out and see which monkeys get along and which ones don't. Males tend to fight and be done; females tend not to fight very often, but when they do, it is much more serious and can lead to deaths. This does depend on the species -- Patas monkeys cannot handle a lot of social stress and crowding them leads to a lot of health problems. Rhesus males fight pretty nastily; I've sewn up enough of them.

(*Cats do too, but they pretend they're not very social. They've fooled a lot of people.)

#6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 09:30 AM:

Ginger... The "jump up and hit the awning" gene?

Being on a bus that suddenly fills up with teenagers who just ended a school day is a... ah... fascinating situation, especially seeing the boys one-up each other verbally and physically, probably to impress the girls.

#7 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 09:36 AM:

Ginger @ #5: I don't know how plausible it is to someone who actually knows the field, but Diane Duane's description of cat social jockeying tickles me (she posits an incredibly complex game called "hauissh" which is based on placing oneself in a position to see other cats without being seen). They just LOOK like they're lying around all day.

#8 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:06 AM:

One day I just snapped. I turned to him and took a piece right out of him. And then I realized that I was being just like the king cichlid, pickin’ on the weaker guy. That these patterns of behavior repeat, from the littlest creatures right on up to us humans.”

We may all have the capacity for being king cichlid, but expressing in words how one feels emotionally isn't that.

Humans have a tendancy to suppress emotions and are generally very bad at expressing them.

"all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." -- Declaration of Independence

I think the only way to get good at expressing emotions is to keep doing it, practice, screw up, etc.

#9 ::: Sean Sakamoto ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:17 AM:

I love this blog. One of the many things that makes it great is that there aren't any king cichlids. In the virtual fishtank of the internet, it's a rare refuge. Civility, WOOT!

Parenting is an evergreen topic with me. New York City playgrounds can be a very confusing place to raise a kid. The different parenting philosophies really rub up against each other. Some parents believe in letting kids settle disputes with little intervention, others get right in there and try to help resolve disputes and instruct the kids about how to play nicely with no snatching of toys or hitting.

The latter are sometimes accused of being 'helicopter parents' for hovering too much, the former are called 'neglectful' and lazy. Most parents just find ways to work it out, but now and then the different camps form like two groups of cichlids.

I'll soon (July 26th) be moving to Japan with my five year old and I'll get to see how dynamics are different with the Japanese, and as a foreigner. I'm looking forward to it.

Anyway, great post! Have a good holiday weekend, everyone.

#10 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:27 AM:

she posits an incredibly complex game called "hauissh" which is based on placing oneself in a position to see other cats without being seen

The thing is, if you watch them, you realize they do it with humans too. How many times has your cat settled down for an evening's TV watching in a spot where you can't see it without turning your head?

#11 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:41 AM:

Also see this incident: Students vote boy out of class.

#12 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:43 AM:

Serge @ #6: The "jump up and hit the awning" gene?

If I'm interpreting correctly, that would be the gene that produces an inability to walk under an awning without jumping up and touching it.

I don't think I have that one, myself. (I might have the "buy more than one in the same colour" gene - again, if I'm interpreting correctly.)

#13 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:52 AM:

#6 and 12

I know that one as 'jump and hit whatever's available' - in my neighborhood, it was leaves hanging down from trees, and even the girls did it. (Awnings were in short supply.)
But we were a strange kind of place.

#14 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:00 AM:

"Buy more than one in the same colour" gene? My shopping frenzies (online or off) tended more toward "buy it in much of its spectrum of colors." The silk shirts from the Eighties are now beginning to fall apart, but the tank tops with inbuilt shelf bras are newer and still very convenient.

#15 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:01 AM:

Ginger @5 - wow, my daughter's going through that. We've homeschooled for years, but this year (8th grade) she went to school. In a very conservative city (Ponce, Puerto Rico), among very socially stratified people, with a year everybody recognizes as being particularly ... what? Cliquish?

Of course, it doesn't help that she's brilliant. The school desperately wants her to stay, but she's decided she'd rather homeschool again next year. She doesn't like being held back academically by a bunch of hooligans.

She's always been so quiet that the glint of venom in her eye when she defends her decision is a little scary.

Speaking of which -- another question for the Making Light Brain Trust (tm): what science-fiction books would the assembly recommend for getting a good picture of alternate ecologies? A little perspective: we've just read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (aside: holy schemoley, what a great set of books!) and the alternate world with the wheeled creatures definitely caught her fancy.

I searched through the boxes, and came up with Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, Niven's Protector, Rainbow Mars, and Smoke Ring, Brin and Benford's Heart of the Comet, Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio, Forward's Flight of the Dragonfly, Orson Scott Card's Wyrms, and Brin's Glory Season. What am I not thinking of? This wasn't intended to be a survey of biologically-oriented SF, but there's got to be others. I didn't give her Dune, I suppose.

#16 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:01 AM:

Greg @8:
We may all have the capacity for being king cichlid, but expressing in words how one feels emotionally isn't that.

Words can be tools of dominance as easily as any other means of human interaction, from physical violence to money. He may have been spurred to speak by exasperation, but that doesn't mean that all he did was express that exasperation. I have no idea what he did. If J says that he was acting like a king cichlid. I believe him. He was there, and we weren't.

Sean Sakomoto @9:
This adventure playground is in the Netherlands, where my Scottish-born kids are assimilating into a very different child-rearing culture.

Children are given a lot more independence here than in the US or the UK. The four older ones (aged 4, 5, 7 and 8) were out of our sight for most of the time, and the adventure playground is an open, busy public place with several ways in and out.

Children are raised to trust the adults around them, even strangers. That permeates the culture—I have never found myself in difficulties without someone coming up to offer assistance. Strangers pick kids up when they fall off their bikes. I push other people's children on the swings.

The children are also expected to settle their own disputes and run their own social lives, although adults will step in to offer (generally very impartial) guidance if they fail. This means, for instance, that parents are not expected to stay around and shepherd their kids at birthday parties (a custom I encountered in the UK).

I will be very interested to hear how things go in Japan. You have my very best wishes on the move, which sounds even more of a culture shift than I've just undergone.

#17 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:06 AM:

I think I'm missing the jump-at-the-awning gene, and the buy-many-copies-in-one-color gene, and the buy-many-copies-covering-the-full-spectrum gene. I seem to have the German-engineer gene, considering how I overbuild things - my computer programmers never(*) break, and it'd probably take a pickup truck to tear down any garage shelves built by yours truly.

(*) well, hardly ever.

#18 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:11 AM:

Serge @17:

You just haven't met the right tester.

#19 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:12 AM:

Alternate ecologies: Janet Kagan's Hellspark and Mirabile, of course.

Jump-up-and-hit-whatever? Me, not so much: short legs, and muscles that are good for stamina but not for sudden delivery, make this an exercise in frustration. Buy-more-than-one-of-the-same-colour when I finally find something that fits and looks okay at a reasonable price? Well, yes; who knows how long it'll be before I get lucky again?

#20 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:27 AM:

Buy-more-than-one-of-the-same-colour: but that's just common sense, no? It takes a fair bit of work to find a pair of pants that fits comfortably and looks okay. If I've found one that meets the criteria, I'd be crazy to just buy one pair. Most women's clothing I find is made to fall apart after one season. Buying two pairs of something that really fits is only sensible.

I also buy identical shirts in different colors, although there I sometimes buy the first item, wear it a few times, and then go back to buy the other colors later if I like the shirt well enough.

I can't imagine how much more time shopping would take if all of my clothing had to be *different*.

#21 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:28 AM:

Buy in many colors, not so much. Buy in small variations... yes.

The best example I can think of is things like cameras. There are a lot of people (though it is canonically more a male habit) who go hog wild buying lenses, many of which overlap.

Got the f1.8 50mm. but it's not fast enough... gotta get the f1.4 and then the f1.2.

Sheesh... the speed differences aren't so great as to justify getting all three, but I know a lot of people who did.

Or who have a bunch of (comparable) long lenses.

It's not that I don't have a lot of glass (and some of it overlaps), but I don't seem to have the trait (and not with cutlery, or knives, two other bits of equipment which tend to collecting variations).

Maybe I need more disposable income, but mostly I have what I need. I lust for some long, fast, glass. I also lust for some wide glass, but I can make do without (and dropping $3,500 for a piece of used glass, which I'm not going to be making a lot of money with, right away, seems a bit extravagant... for a new body; painful, but not out of line... sadly the new body I want is five grand, not three).

Sean Sakamoto: We don't have king chiclids because we work at it. I sat on a comment I was going to make on the subject because it felt as if I was going to be pulling a borderline case of it; which recursion was interetsing, but probably not productive. It may be a function of size (there's the recursion) and we are too large (and moderated) to support the kind of bullying which lets that dynamic take over.

I do think it's a combination of the two, and Teresa is fighting the sense that she's the Big Boss on BoingBoing, where some people either see her as the King, or resent that they don't get to play the role.

Interesting watching over there.

abi: I wonder how much of the child-rearing is because of the polder culture you were describing; that the expectations of happy-medium are so ingrained the adults assume (and apparently with some reason) that things will be worked out, to a general satisfaction of the participants.

#22 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:29 AM:

abi @ 17... You just haven't met the right tester.

You mean, like this one, or THIS one?

#23 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:35 AM:

abi: I note that Serge said his programmers don't break.

G. Jules: To a lot of guys, your clothes are all different. They find a style of pants they like, and by several pairs, all the same color.

Shirts might have a little more variety, but it's the same idea. One style, two-three colors (so people will now it's not the same shirt three days running).

Since the styles don't change much, shopping for new clothes usually has the longest parts in getting to the shop, and waiting to pay.

Me.... not so much. I am slight, I have to search like blazes to find things which (mostly) fit. Then I have to try them on (because even the smallest I can find are usually too large, and I have to look for the cutter who was working at the small end of the pattern).

It takes hours, and (barring 501s, in a large shop) I usually don't find more than one, or at most two, pair of pants in a session.

The only comparable experience I've had is going bra-shopping with people.

#24 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:50 AM:

Terry @21:

You are of course right; we don't have king cichlids on Making Light because we work at it.

Speaking as a moderator, I have to say that it doesn't feel like work. This is probably because we, as a community, have momentum in the right direction. Watching Teresa spin up a community on BoingBoing is an education and an intimidation all in one.

Our momentum expresses itself when people sit on comments that they considered posting (not everything I write goes past the preview stage). It expresses itself when I can make a very gentle comment about the tone of someone's discussion, and have them gracefully reconsider. It's what causes us to value egoboo (eg the versifiers and the punsters) over ego-trips.

The impulse to be king cichlid is universal. The decision to express it, and to have a community that permits its expression, is not.

This is a very long-winded way to say thank you for considering what you post. I think sometimes that you worry too much, but I don't actually know what gets abandoned at preview. Nor should I; that is a matter between you and your browser.

With regard to the child-rearing here, yes, it is a product of (and productive of) the polder model of collaboration.

#25 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:58 AM:

abi: What doesn't get posted is usually the subtle stuff (I can be really quietly nasty; for examples look at how my phrases, and allusions change when we get really obnoxious proslytisers), the things which sting, but don't take chunks out, the bits which would probably make other people start to second guess themselves more.

That, it seems to me isn't cricket. Being able to spout off is important.

I also find I bide my time more when threads are young; to see if I was the only one who wanted to say something, because I can have my head in dark places with the best of 'em, and having a (hard though it seems to me) a heavy hitter say one has done wrong can be chilling.

If I worry too much, well that's a flattering faith you have in me, and I'm touched.

#26 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 12:03 PM:

abi: re culture

I figured it had to be recursive. One can't do what one doesn't see, and telling people to, "wait until you're older" to take part in decision making is a bad idea; the decisions won't be thought out; beacause the consequences aren't plain.

To quote A. E. Houseman, "First a little, thence to more."

The idea in that poem applies to lots of things, even if the specific context of the quotation seems inapposite.

I think I shall now climb on my bicycle and investigate getting out of the house for a spot of brekkie.

#27 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 12:07 PM:

Michael, #15: Definitely give her Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity, and if she likes that, some of the same characters also appear in Star Light. James Schmitz has several short stories and books with ecological themes -- and you can hardly go wrong with anything by Schmitz, so just give her the books and let her find the relevant stuff. James Blish's "Adapted Men" stories are good too.

#28 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 12:11 PM:

I haven't bought any clothes (except socks) in over a year. Well, maybe some workout t-shirts.

I deeply hate shopping for clothes. If I've gone to the effort and stress of finding something that fits (and I almost always have to get the legs taken up, because I'm build like the Michelin Man only SHORT), I buy several of them so I don't have to go shopping again for the longest possible period.

Now that no one in my life cares what I look like (my friends like me for me, strangers aren't "in my life," and I'm not looking for a new Mr. Right or even a Mr. Right Now yet), I'm going with worn, raggedy, and slovenly. It's relaxing, in a way.

And for the office, I have three pairs of acceptable pants and five acceptable shirts. I wear them all every week, and wash them all every weekend. No one cares; my job is such that whole days go by without anyone at the office so much as looking at me. Eventually some of these clothes will wear out and I'll be forced to go to the gods damned frakking MALL again and replace them with more zero-care-because-who-cares acceptable business casual clothes.

Wow. This is much more depressing than I thought it was when I started writing about it. When I was thinking of having my then-boyfriend (a true clothes horse, size EXTRA small; he shops in the boys' department) move in, I figured if he only brought half his clothes, I could fit them in my closet after I threw away all the clothes that are in there now—which I should do anyway, since I never wear them.

#29 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 12:19 PM:

Xopher: How did he pull that trick off? I tried (because with 27 inch waist, and a 36 inch chest the numbers looked right) but the shirts were too short in the waist, and the rise was too small on the trousers.

I so wanted it to work, because not only would they be cheaper, but they's fit. Probably wouldn't wear as well (clothes for kids tend to be more cheaply made, since they aren't expected to last), so on balance I might have been paying more... but they would have fit.

Sigh, it's hard to explain how frustating being slight can be; since I get lots of, "what... you want sympathy for not being fat," which, of course, isn't my complaint. I want (sort of) sympathy for being an outlier, who sometimes feels the pain of market force discrimination... I'll never see a, "normal/thin store" the way I see, "Big and Tall,", nor will I be likely to be able to look sharp without visits to my tailor.

That's probably part of why I like doing faires, and wearing a dress uniform/tails. I look sharp in those clothes, and it's about the only time I get to play peacock.

#30 ::: dr.hypercube ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 12:20 PM:

Regarding Pink Floyd recursion - there's a funny here (scroll down a bit).

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 12:43 PM:

Terry 29: He's also 5'4" and not very muscular. And I guess he doesn't mind if his pants are tight in the one place where he's, shall we say, full size.

#32 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 12:43 PM:

I think I remember reading once that there is a species of cichlid that has a jaw adapted for biting scales off of the left side of other fish, and another species with a right-handed jaw.

Don't they have two pairs of jaws one behind the other or something?

By the way the Egyptian mouth-brooder (seen on the wikipedia page op cit) is mentioned in Illuminatus.

#33 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 12:44 PM:

Michael at 15: How about The Dispossessed? It's not so much an alternate ecology -- though there's some of that -- as an alternate way of relating to the environment. Worth reading for multiple reasons.

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 12:48 PM:

Terry Karney @ 23... Oops. That was me without cafeine. It wasn't a freudian slip. Really. Honest.

#35 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 12:48 PM:

The more I look at all-of-us (not just us-here), the more I'm dissatisfied with social models that overemphasize the dominance axis. If troupes of adolescents are especially revealing of how our part of the primate family self-organizes, then there are other roles that cross that king-subject/boss-lackey/bully-victim divide. Isn't there more than simple dominance operating in the beauty queen role? And class clown (my own intended destination fifty years ago) has some interesting possibilities. An all-licensed fool is a useful social tool. (There's some verse lurking in there.) And the tech nerd--where does the A/V guy fit in?

#36 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 12:52 PM:

Lizzy L @ 33 - I was thinking of Left Hand of Darkness as another almost-fit, so I think the group mind has found a mine of alternate viewpoints in Le Guin.

Michael @ 15, how about Niven and Pournelle's Mote in God's Eye?

#37 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 12:55 PM:

Serge #17: But you do have the Gilbert & Sullivan gene, it seems.

#38 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 12:55 PM:

For some very strange ecologies, consider:

The Integral Trees and The Smoke Ring, by Larry Niven (ecology without a planet).

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 01:03 PM:

Fragano @ 37... Were I to attempt singing anything by Gilbert & Sullivan, I'd reveal a musical 'talent' which has more to do with that of Assurancetourix.

#40 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 01:05 PM:

One gene I do have is the buy-one-and-run-it-into-the-ground gene.

#41 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 01:18 PM:

If a cichlid had tentacles on its face, would it be a chthichlid?

#42 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 01:18 PM:

If a cichlid had tentacles on its face, would it be a chthichlid?

#43 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 01:19 PM:

Re: Michael Roberts at 15

Try Elizabeth Bear's Dust. The writing style didn't really do it for me but the ecology involved was so fascinating I read to the end anyway.

Also, Heinlein's Red Planet. I always found his Martians interesting and I think this one shows them off the best.

Good luck to your daughter - I had similar reactions and experiences as a kid and the adults were much less receptive. Things get much, much better in college and at least in my experience continue to improve from there.

#44 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 01:19 PM:

Michael Roberts @15,abi@38

For ecology without a planet, how about Fred Hoyle's 'The Black Cloud'?

#45 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 01:24 PM:

Sean Sakamoto, 9,

I'll soon (July 26th) be moving to Japan with my five year old and I'll get to see how dynamics are different with the Japanese, and as a foreigner. I'm looking forward to it.

Ah! You might find this interesting then: Japanese Lessons: A Year in a Japanese School through the Eyes of an American Anthropologist and Her Children . I found it very readable, and it may address exactly that question (how are those dynamics different). That's a google books link, btw, which at first glance looks like you can read the whole thing under the "preview this book" tab.

Anyway, I've read your other stuff on here and I'd love to find out how much her observations map on to your reality ;)

#46 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 01:40 PM:

space ecology: It occurs to me that space colonization might not be doable by humans because they'd have to be continuously alive during the long voyage, reproducing in a continuously habitable habitat for several generations, but if you sent insect eggs and seeds, along with some sort of computer to shepherd them, that might work.

Has anyone written anything along those lines?

Creatures must live where it's steadily warm
But in wintry environments
Egg-laying animals
And plants with seeds live in transitional form.

#47 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 01:52 PM:

Erik Nelson @46-- In Vernor Vinge's collection of short stories there's one with a similar scenario, but with fertilized human eggs in stasis. Interesting plot twists. It's told from the POV of the shepherding computer/ship.

#48 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 02:06 PM:

abi @24: we don't have king cichlids on Making Light because we work at it -- also because they have trouble keeping keyboards working underwater.

#49 ::: wychwood ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 03:13 PM:

Michael Roberts @15: Door Into Ocean, by Joan Slonczewski? It was written partly as a response to the ecology of Dune, and she's a professional biologist, so she does know her stuff.

#50 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 03:43 PM:

Debbie @47, Erik Nelson @46: One flaw with the seeder starship concept (via stored eggs or DNA samples) that had occurred to me, is that it isn't enough to have elephant DNA; you'd also need an elephant womb. Repeat for each species that requires gestation. A difficult engineering problem? I don't think this has been addressed (yet I'd have to say I'd be surprised if it hadn't).

#51 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 04:03 PM:

Speaking as one who has kept cichlids in the past, I must say I never really noticed this behaviour pattern. But then, there are many species of cichlidae and I only tried a few of them.

#52 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 04:53 PM:

Michael Roberts #48:

Appropriate tools would help, but it's the one fin typing that'll slow them down.

#53 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 05:06 PM:

Warren Zevon had the "buy more than one in the same color" gene, but in his case it was OCD. When he died, dozens of identical grey Calvin Klein tees, still wrapped, were distributed to his friends.

#54 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 05:07 PM:

Serge #39: Moi aussi. But I was referring to your 'never...hardly ever' trope.

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 05:21 PM:

Fragano @ 54... Oh, I knew that. It's just that my singing any G&S more elaborate than that exchange isn't something you'd want to hear.

#56 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 05:30 PM:

Arthur C. Clarke's Songs of Distant Earth is about the culture clash when a slowship using hibernation reaches a colony established by a seedship bearing embryos. The slowship is dropping by to pick up more water to replace its ice shield, which ablates away as the ship impacts on interstellar dust at about 10% of C.

As I recall, it makes appropriate gestures toward the idea that the ship will have to gestate the embryos and then raise the infant animals and humans until they reach the point of self-sufficiency.

One of the conceits of the novel was that the humans in the seedship had been given an edited version of human history. The humans from old earth had a list of subjects not to mention to the colonists - I believe war and religion were on the list.

Tying this into the cichlid discussion: given a tabula rasa, would it be possible to raise human beings with less cichlid quotient? And would it be ethical to withhold information from humans to try and make them better people?

#57 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 05:37 PM:

Russell Letson @#35: Indeed, dominance isn't the whole story, but it is a big part, and it's what kicks in when you throw together a bunch of people who don't have a natural community. (Notice how that includes modern schools (especially with busing), many offices, and of course a goodly number of Internet forums.

The other half of the picture is relationship, which provides "horizontal" connections which interweave with the "vertical" patterns of dominance. It's people's interpersonal relationships that bind together a community, and moderate the effects of power imbalances.

The ultimate reason we don't have bullying here on ML, is because the people who "own the territory" -- Teresa and Patrick -- have the inclination, strength, and ability to exclude the bullies. The effects of relationship are less obvious, because they're aligned with those of dominance. That is, many of the "old-timers" and the most prolific posters have connections to the moderators, forming an alliance group. With less enlightened leaders, that could easily be a nightmare -- but "first-class people pick other first-class people". So the "ruling clique" here chooses to enforce higher principles than mere personal power... and only the trolls get the nightmares.

Rob Rusick @#50 et prev.: Most SF has historically assumed that artificial wombs would be "just an engineering problem". The trouble is, the more we learn about gestation, the tougher that trick looks! By now it's clear that ex utero gestation for mammals is a Very Hard Problem -- indeed, it might be biology's equivalent of "AI-completeness".

#58 ::: Jim Lund ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 05:57 PM:

Alternate ecologies? Add in David Gerrold's Chtorr series. The Earth is invaded by a more competitive ecology--no intelligent aliens appear but Earth gets munched on. It builds slowly but is intricate and exciting.

Outside of sf, Edward O. Wilson's autobiography 'Naturalist' is a fascinating read. He's one of the last generation of discovery naturalists. He wandered across the world discovering new species of insects, birds, and mammals right and left as the first or one of the first naturalists to explore several regions. It reads like an adventure story.

#59 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 05:58 PM:

Ecological SF: Robert Charles Wilson has Darwinia and Bios, both with ecological elements, though they also have mystical "twists".

#60 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 05:59 PM:

SF Ecologies:

Greg Bear's Legacy where he pushes the definitions of both ecology and evolution rather hard; they almost fall over, but not quite. My personal favorite of Hal Clement's world-building novels is Cycle of Fire, which I also like because it is the closest he came to writing a classic tragedy.

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 06:22 PM:

Alien ecologies on Earth... Thomas Disch's Genocide.

#62 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 06:37 PM:

Bob Rusick @ 50

An excellent point; in fact we don't really have any idea how to engineer artificial gestation, because the womb does a lot more than hold and nurture an embryo; it's partly responsible for morphogenic development during the early stages of cell division, before the original cell line starts to differentiate into stem lines.

No hard sf writer who wants to write about biology should miss reading Jack Cohen's* work, fiction and non-fiction. He's a reproductive biologist, an SF writer, and, in collaboration with Ian Stewart he writes about theoretical biology and the mathematics and philosophy of life. Head-stretching stuff; one of his books is where I read the, obvious in retrospect, point that wombs and embryos have co-evolved over a very long time, and really don't work independently in the way a human engineer might design them.

* No relation

#63 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 06:51 PM:

Fungi @#56: ...given a tabula rasa, would it be possible to raise human beings with less cichlid quotient? And would it be ethical to withhold information from humans to try and make them better people?

That first question seems a little ambiguous, but in any case, "civilized" behavior is a superstructure over our primate behavior and psychology, which is built through heavy socialization in childhood and onward. Trying to raise a human "away from evil society" will just produce a poorly-socialized hominid.

It might well be possible to "engineer" the socialization process, but even before we reach "how do we get there", we'd have to cross the battleground over just what results are "better". (Hint: Low aggression among your populace is very convenient for tyrants.)

For the second question, any such attempt founders on the fallacy that "if they don't hear about it, they won't do it". In practice, if they don't hear about it, they can't learn from the experiences of their predecessors, so they'll repeat all the same mistakes.

#64 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 06:51 PM:

Serge @ 61

Yeah, The Genocides gets my vote as one of the top ten most depressing endings of all time; if we didn't include the last sentence in that list of great end lines a year or two ago, then we missed one of the greatest.

#65 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 06:52 PM:

While ML is a splendid place, I feel like it's incumbent on someone to toss in a memento mori every once in awhile... :)

As for ecologies, I actually really liked Doc Smith's stuff from the Lensmen books. A Venus-like planet with insane temperature gradients and tons of water, where every day was a hurricane... What lived there? Plants that shot up in the few calm hours of noon and aerodynamic turtle-ish critters. The gutters of torture chambers had worms living in them. The aliens had billboard-equivalent advertising they ignored. He really thought things through, but doesn't let it get in the way of a rollicking story... And this was all lifetimes ago before thinking of things as systems was a major thing.

I second the cheer for the ecology of _Dust_, and note that it's qualified for the Hugos next year...

#66 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 07:15 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 64... What was that last line again? I remember how Genocide ends, but not that last line. I read it way back when, in college. (That was so long ago that I think Abi had gotten out of the Terrible Twos that year.)

#67 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 07:18 PM:

Serge @ 6: Well, it's hard to simplify a sketch into a sentence. It's also too bad that Elayne Boosler isn't doing standup on a regular basis (if at all) anymore. All I can say is, when she mentioned the shopping gene, and then said all the guys in the audience were turning to their wives, my housemates (male) turned and look at me.

Jumping up and hitting something up high seems to track in the boys and athletic girls; my son is constantly doing it and I did it too. However, I learned to shop properly and not miss out on clothing that I liked, so now I, too, buy more than one pair of those black pants.

Lila @ 7: I've read that too, and it amuses me greatly. She's definitely paid attention to cats when they didn't realize a human could see them. Male cats have a range of social behaviors and will meet on neutral territory. Females are very territorial and will not interact positively with strangers except when in heat.

I have a cat who is an urban commando. You can't see him right in front of you, unless he moves. Every other cat I've had did not display this talent.

Sweetie, my first Maine Coon, displayed more of the king cichlid behaviors. She was a very dominant personality, and trained her humans to give her not just food but also tea. In fact, I came home from college one day, and heard my father say "Oh, Sweetie wants some tea".

Human behaviors cover a wide range of possibilities, and these depend not just on the innate personality (which interacts with and depends to some extend on experiences), but also the environment in which the person sits. Some people -- like some dogs and cats -- will always be the subordinate and their body language says it quite clearly. Others will always be the king cichlid, and their body language is just as clear. I think most of us fall in the middle of the bell curve, and our dominance/subordinate behaviors will vary, but that's just IMHO.

Folks here are a self-selected group of thinkers, intellectuals, reflective by nature and prone to poetry as well as puns. It's easier to get along in this kind of environment. Baen's Bar used to be like this too, when Jim Baen was moderating the conferences (and there were fewer conferences to read). We all got along really well despite our religious and political differences.

I'm really glad ML exists. It feels like another home.

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 07:21 PM:

Ginger @ 67... I learned to shop properly and not miss out on clothing that I liked, so now I, too, buy more than one pair of those black pants

...thus did you resolve the debate of Nature vs Nature. Me, I own 3 copies of the same pants that I like, but mostly because my wife has the shopping gene.

#69 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 07:21 PM:

David Harmon @ 63

I agree with all your points, and would stress the ethical questions even more*. The point I made before about wombs applies here too, I think: humans and their culture have been co-evolving for a very long time; it's not really meaningful to talk about either one independent of the other, any more than you can consider human digestion independent of gut bacteria.

* Fungi, the question reminds me of the suggestions made in the wake of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis that it would be an interesting experiment to raise children completely removed from the experience of language to see what ur-language they would develop. Luckily, the experiment was never performed intentionally, though we have enough well-documented examples of human children raised without language to be fairly sure that what happens is that they live past the point at which language acquisition becomes possible, and so miss out on an essential part of being human.

#70 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 07:22 PM:

Argh.... Nature vs Nurture.

#71 ::: Carol ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 07:32 PM:

Alternate ecologies:
James White's Sector General series - full of linked stories dealing with triage, transportation, and care of sick and/or injured non-human species (other than that everyone uses the term "human" for themselves)and the places they were discovered - planet surfaces, habitats, space...humorous, compassionate, insightful.

#72 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 07:42 PM:

Serge @ 66

From imperfect memory; my copy seems to have gone AWOL some time back: "Fbzr fcrpvrf jbhyq fheivir, ohg abg, ubjrire, Zna."

#73 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 07:43 PM:

Now I am reminded how someone quoted in Great Mambo Chicken and The Transhuman Condition (a book about people who were into cryonics, space colonization and whatnot) looked at all those people with all the wild ideas and had the idea that the motivation for it all was uterus envy.

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 07:50 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 72... Ah, the SF of the late 1960s and of the early 1970s...

#75 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 08:14 PM:

Bruce Cohen at 69

Just a small pet peeve, but the children you're referring to demonstrate, at best, what happens when a child is socially isolated past a certain age. Language isolation is just a side-effect and we can't really draw conclusions about language development based on this.

A better example what's gone on with the development of Nicaraguan sign language. It's almost an ethical version of the forbidden experiment, there are a few flaws with it (on the experimental side, not the ethical bits) and the results are robust enough to be considered near definitive.

Quick references for the curious:
Genie the most famous of the feral children talked about these days.
Nicaraguan Sign Language.

#76 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 08:25 PM:

Serge @ 70: According to my EENT, I was the very embodiment of the Nature v Nurture debate. When I was a child, I was academically talented; since I was also severely hard of hearing, no one would have guessed that I'd be ahead of my grade level. The "normal" level for a child with a similar hearing defect was around three grades behind age-mates. He always held me up as an example of the "conflict", as I'd overcome nature by virtue of nuture..sorry. I seem to be infected with G&S virus.

Anyway, yes. My partner actually shops. I usually hunt for the appropriate clothing and make good notes about what to buy, then buy what I need. I've overcome my natural dislike of shopping, but she still doesn't like to shop with me. I move too fast through the store. ;-)

Now, where's that overhead -- I need to jump and hit it.

#77 ::: Sean Sakamoto ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 08:35 PM:

Thanks for the link. That book looks interesting.

abi,interesting observations regarding playground culture. I think some of the so-called 'mommy wars' in the US were imported from the UK. They had a few books like "I Don't Know How She Does It." I never read it, but I understand it was an opening salvo in the career mom vs. stay at home mom contentiousness that's been a huge feature of the parenting discussions recently.

I can relate to your clothes depressions. I do these yo-yo diets where I finally become svelte, then I buy four pairs of the same pants. Then I gain 15 pounds and never wear any of them, but instead wear the one pair of jeans that fit me.

#78 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 08:42 PM:

# 15 - Michael Roberts
try "Demon Breed" by schmidt

#79 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 09:01 PM:

Tangentially related to SF ecology: Dance of the Tiger (Den Svarta Tigern) by Bjorn Kurten is excellent; the author is a paleontologist, but also quite a good novelist. I like his ideas about what happened to the Neanderthals. (Warning: there are spoilers all over the web--be careful about searching for reviews.)

#80 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 09:04 PM:

I keep wanting to write a story about genetic material being sent to other planets to be reconstructed there, and then generations later the people on Earth and the reconstituted people on another planet get in contact with one another somehow and discover to their mutual horror that neither resembles the other's idea of them.

I'm sure that the vagueness of that sentence makes it plain why this story has never gotten farther than the "keep wanting to write" stage.

(The SF I write definitely tends towards the unfashionably not-hard kind, so the scientific specifics of how, exactly, do they reconstitute people and how, exactly, do planets many light years apart find a method of two-way communication aren't a major concern, but there's still enough to work out with this concept that my mind starts to reel before I even start thinking about what the horrifying differences between the Earth people and the other people might be.)

#81 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 09:47 PM:

Michael Roberts #15:

What about Ian Mcdonald's "CHAGA": alien life-form lands in Africa, runs rampant.

#82 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 09:50 PM:

ethan @ #80: "how, exactly, do planets many light years apart find a method of two-way communication."

Really really long telephone cords?

(I just opened a desk drawer and discovered about 8 of those things, including one that's either 50' or 100' long.)

#83 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 09:51 PM:

Said alien life being some sort of weird plant-like growth that engulfs and co-opts Earth organisms. Battling ecologies.

#84 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 09:54 PM:

Linkmeister #82: Ah! Perfect! And the reason it takes generations to get communications up is that once the reconstituted humans are settled on the new planet, they have to send a ship back to thread the damn things. Once that's done, they're all set.

#85 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:10 PM:

ethan #84:

All conversational threads lead to string theory.

#86 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:15 PM:

Soon Lee@ 85: Drat! You beat me to it. I could knot resist the temptation, but I was too slow to the thread. Ethan, I think you've got a good yarn there.

#87 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:16 PM:

Carrie S., #10, that only happens here when Spirit and Shiva sit on the top of the back of the recliner, and eventually, Shiva dangles a leg to be petted and Spirit will make a little sigh so I'll pet her.

Joel, #19, back before I got sick I found heeled boots that were narrow enough so my feet didn't slide around in them. I bought two pair. The first pair got used quite a bit before I got sick, but the second pair went to a charity shop last year.

#88 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:23 PM:

Ginger @ 76... I pull my metaphorical hat to you. As for your hearing problem, was it somehow resolved, or compensated for?

#89 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:24 PM:

Another alien ecology is Hal Clement's The Nitrogen Fix. Not one of his better efforts IMHO, but O2 + N2 is not in the lowest energy state ....

#90 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:25 PM:

Bruce @69: any more than you can consider human digestion independent of gut bacteria. And yet, and yet... My daughter (yes, same one) has Crohn's Disease. And we've had astoundingly good success for this allegedly uncurable disease by entirely ignoring the well-meant advice of her pediatric gastroenterologist, instead focusing on nurture of her gastrointestinal flora (a la David Klein and Elaine Gottschall, for anyone who's interested.) No symptoms since last summer, and that's without medication.

The gastroenterologist, however, insists that diet has no effect on Crohn's.

The fascinating thing is that after she was diagnosed, and we thought it was highly unlikely that both our children should have unrelated uncurable diseases, we've been making progress with our son's kidney disease as well. Which is a damned good thing, since he has an idiosyncratic reaction to steroids.

So yeah. Intestinal ecology is a topic of interest in our household. (And we're getting quite good at making good yogurt.)

Everybody: Thanks for all the suggestions for books! Some of these I've never heard of, and some I should have but don't seem to (Heinlein's Red Planet, for instance; I can even see the cover art in my mind's eye, but it doesn't seem to be in the boxes.) A couple I've read and didn't care for, but my daughter may have a different notion. We're going to Borders tomorrow (our reward for making it through an entire school year for the first time since ... hmm ... seven years now. First time ever for our son.) I'll see what's on the shelves. Unfortunately, Puerto Rico isn't all too well-equipped when it comes to bookstores (let's not even discuss libraries, because I get all choked up.) If she makes it through the stack already on her desk, maybe it's time to hit Amazon.

#91 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:31 PM:

Re: Cat behavior

When we had but few cats, there was Manx/Tonk who had grown up alone with an owner who doted on him. Iko-Iko had the most amazing vocabulary, with at least 7 sounds that consistently meant the same thing. "I", "want", "food", "petting", "holding", "no!", "angry". He could string two or three together to make "sentences" of simple but consistent value. He used them only with us, and not on the other cats. He understood at least 20 words of English. Together with his natural feline non-verbal language (which we learned), he could communicate very complex desires and opinions on the restrictions we placed on him. As we got more kittehs over the next few years, and he spent the majority of his time interacting with them, he lost a lot of the variety of his "language," but still could make his opinion plain to us. I once wrote a term paper of the phenomenon for an Interpersonal Communications class.

Another of our original cats could lie to us, but I have seen many other claims so this seems not so unique.

By the time we had eight cats in the house (all indoor, all with claws), we had our own pride of lions. Three males and five females (all fixed) all interacted the way lions in Africa do, almost to a T. We watched nature specials and read volumes about lion behavior and the map to our "pride" was almost perfect. The only differences were the social workarounds they developed to account for Mel and myself. They had their own Alphas, but I was recognized as an Uber-Alpha. Mel sometimes had trouble getting the males to follow orders, but on the whole they obeyed better when they were in the pride structure than the times before and after when we had fewer cats and no recognizable "pride."

#92 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:31 PM:

#69 --

The story goes that Once Upon A Time, a king decided to see what the "original language of mankind" was, by having a group of infants raised without ever hearing spoken language.

After six years or so, all of the children were fluent in sign language.

It's harder than it looks to separate genetics from culture, and it doesn't look easy.

#93 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:37 PM:

Serge @ 88: I have these magical things called hearing aids. What they really are is volume control. ;-)

#94 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:40 PM:

Ginger @86 -
Soon Lee@ 85: Drat! You beat me to it. I could knot resist the temptation, but I was too slow to the thread. Ethan, I think you've got a good yarn there.

No. No way. I refuse to get roped into another one of these durn pun chains....

#95 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:41 PM:

Ginger @ 93... I'm glad to hear that the problem wasn't so severe that aids wouldn't do the trick.

#96 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:42 PM:

Scott Taylor #94: Opposed to being tied into the puntificatory crowd are you?

#97 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:42 PM:

Ginger: I've have people compare me to both foxes, and cats. I can see the cat now. I tend to be very quiet, and; apparently, relaxed.

But I also sit where I can see everyone, and when it's time to move, I'm gone. My mother says it was interesting to watch me as a child, because I was always like that. All stillness, or all motion.

#98 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:50 PM:

Fragano @ 96: He's got to draw the line somewhere, eh? Otherwise - before you know it - he's three sheets to the wind, and there's no staying anyone.

#99 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:53 PM:

ecology in sf: I just remembered that War of the Worlds embodies the principle that invasive species either take over or die out.

#100 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:53 PM:

ecology in sf: I just remembered that War of the Worlds embodies the principle that invasive species either take over or die out.

#101 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 10:55 PM:

I'm sure I only hit the "post" button once this time! Is the bug on the other end?

#102 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:03 PM:

Ginger #98: No doubt he thinks we're all at sea. And I am off to the arms of Morpheus, before my beloved thinks of some suitable punishment.

#103 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:16 PM:

Ginger: Sayl, I knew I like the cut of your jib, you have sprit, and watch what you say, hawse the weather where you are.

#104 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2008, 11:49 PM:

Terry Karney @ 21: "It may be a function of size (there's the recursion) and we are too large (and moderated) to support the kind of bullying which lets that dynamic take over."

That was the only part of the cichlid example that sounded off to me: anti-social behavior gets worse as size decreases? That's never been my experience. Generally, the larger the community, the worse the anti-social behavior gets. (I think that once the numbers get large enough that community members can't remember all the other members from day to day, a space develops where people aren't held accountable for their poor behavior--and then behaving badly (stealing. etc.) becomes a viable strategy. It seems to me that government is all basically a way of getting communities to work at sizes larger than that.)

The cichlid example is interesting--I wouldn't have guessed that social behavior would have that dramatic of a discontinuity. It sounds like a pair of alternate survival strategies, triggered by population density--EITHER work to leverage numbers for safety OR protect your territory from competitors.

Michael Roberts @ 15: "what science-fiction books would the assembly recommend for getting a good picture of alternate ecologies?"

It's not sf, but for my money you can't beat 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus for a look at alternate (human-included) ecologies. Actually, the best part is that they aren't sf--they all actually existed.

FungiFromYuggoth @ 56: "Tying this into the cichlid discussion: given a tabula rasa, would it be possible to raise human beings with less cichlid quotient? And would it be ethical to withhold information from humans to try and make them better people?"

I think this question is based on a false assumption: that it is even possible to make people better by teaching them less. I think David Harmon @ 63 says it well: "any such attempt founders on the fallacy that "if they don't hear about it, they won't do it". In practice, if they don't hear about it, they can't learn from the experiences of their predecessors, so they'll repeat all the same mistakes." Progress happens when you learn from the past, not when you ignore it.

#105 ::: ripley ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 12:09 AM:

on alternative ecologies: Molly Gloss' _The Dazzle of Day_ takes place on a ship that is its own eco-system, run by Quakers on their way to settle a new world. I found it lovely

#106 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 12:36 AM:

Terry @103
I'm sure Ginger will have a crafty reply which will leave the group in her wake.

#107 ::: Steve Jackson ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 12:41 AM:

Eric @ 100: By invasive species, do you mean introduced species? If it's literally invasive, then it doesn't die out unless it exhausts the food supply completely; it just crowds native species in the same niche, until they're marginalized or extinct.

It's even too much of a generalization to say that introduced species either become invasive or die out. Two local (Austin TX) examples: Pyracantha bush, introduced by landscapers, has escaped to the wild around Austin, but you don't see them often or in huge stands. And the Mediterranean gecko has become common around here in the last 15 or 20 years. They *are* common . . . step outside in the summer, shine a light under the eaves of your house, and lookit all the geckos! But, though they have proliferated, they don't seem to be a problem, possibly because the niche "noctural climbing insectivore" was empty locally. There's lots for them to eat, but lots of things eat them, too, so they don't seem to be a problem. Certainly there are plenty of bugs left over for the local climbing lizard, the Carolina anole, who works the day shift.

As to cichlids - Yes, I've kept cichlids of several types for many years (and my first job was in an aquarium store) and the behavior described at the start of the thread is new to me. Cichlids are a huge family, taking in the slow-moving and elegant angelfish and discus, the hyperactive African lake cichlids, and the tilapia, who you may never have seen in an aquarium but has likely graced your plate at a restaurant.

Cichlids can be aggressive, but disagreements are usually caused either by mating squabbles or by too *large* a population, especially among highly territorial species like the African cichlids. If every fish has its own hole in the rocks, well and good. If there's one too few hiding place, drama will ensue.

The only time I have seen anything like the behavior described was interspecific. Two little convict cichlids in a store tank paired off and, in hyperaggressive protect-the-eggs mode, claimed half the tank for themselves. The 20 or so larger cichlids in the tank - Jack Dempseys, which are normally thought of as roughnecks - all decided that they really preferred the *other* half of the ten-gallon tank. But this was accomplished through threat displays and the occasional nip; there were no murders.

#108 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 12:43 AM:

anaea @ 75

I think I agree with you; at least, I don't believe you can separate socialization from language and say much about them separately. That's the whole problem with Sapir-Whorf: it tries to find a simple causation (language creates world-view) in what's really a tangle of recursion, feedback, and co-evolution. The only thing I might say differently from what you said is that I don't think we can say which is the side-effect and which the cause; in fact I'd argue the distinction isn't very meaningful.

#109 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 12:53 AM:

#107: "step outside in the summer, shine a light under the eaves of your house, and lookit all the geckos!"

So long as they're not selling car insurance.

#110 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:43 AM:

Alternative ecologies: Robert J. Sawyer's Neanderthal trilogy -- Hominids, Humans, Hybrids -- takes place partly in an alternate-Earth timeline in which the Neanderthals came to dominance. Their social structures are very different from ours (though no less technologically advanced, and in some ways more so; for example, it is their device that breaches the timeline barrier), and as a result their ecology still includes a number of species that we drove to extinction.

#111 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:59 AM:

Ginger @ 76

The "normal" level for a child with a similar hearing defect was around three grades behind age-mates.

Sadly, the reason behind this statistic has far too often been that children with hearing problems were diagnosed as developmentally-delayed (or more usually and barbarically, "retarded") because no one noticed they were having trouble hearing the teacher. Some of those kids were finally diagnosed when they were sent to special ed classes, where teachers had figured out the problem; but in the days of "mainstreaming", a lot of them were missed for so long that the learning deficit never was made up.

Happier subject: aren't hearing aids wonderful? I finally saved up enough to buy a state of the art pair (well, state of the art when I bought them), about the cost of a really good laptop each, and I can hear music again!

#112 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 02:46 AM:

Steve Jackson #107:
That was my experience too, with a pair of mating Jewel Cichlids getting belligerent in a community aquarium. The rest of the time, they coexisted just fine with the other fishes (once I worked out that the other fish needed to be larger than a certain size; too small and they get eaten).

But it was a long time ago & given the variation within the large cichlid family, I just assumed that that sort of behaviour was from cichlid species I wasn't aware of.

#113 ::: Jarrod ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 03:49 AM:

#15 - Alternate Ecologies -

James P Hogan, Code of the Lifemaker -- really fascinating development of a very unlikely ecology...

#114 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 03:50 AM:

Fungi@56: would it be possible to raise human beings with less cichlid quotient?

I think that the drive behind cichlid behaviour is probably a drive called "agency", the state of being in action or of exerting power. And I don't think agency is bad, I think it is counterbalanced by something one might describe as empathy.

I'd say the tyrants and serial kilers of the world aren't so much an outcome of having too much agency as probably having zero empathy.

On the other hand, I see a lot of what I would call healthy people (who have both agency and empathy) who suppress their agency, because they think it's bad. And often, they think it's bad because they've been told it's bad, often by their parents when they're children.

Children should be seen and not heard. Don't talk back to your parents. Do what you're told. insert obligatory child abuse story. insert obligatory child-bully (the epitome of agency and no empathy) story.

The result is that the drive of agency is suppressed by the individual because they've been conditioned to not express it. If they did, they often suffered negative consequences as a child.

But that means as an adult, these individuals often end up getting steam-rolled by others who have agency and are willing to express it.

In this situation, the solution isn't to reduce the agency in other people, but to get the individual to start expressing their own agency. And this usually immediately brings up stuff for that person such as "they don't want to be mean" or "they don't want to cause trouble" or "they don't want to be selfish" or "they don't want to make waves", many times which can be traced back to that person's experience as a child. They associate the behaviour with a bully. Or they associate it with being told by their parents that they're being bad.

And expressing agency will probably be messy. But it doesn't mean you'll turn into king cichlid. That's what I was tryign to say about abi's friend. expressing agency doesn't automatically make you into a tyrant. The fact is that abi's friend also showed empathy at some point by seeing the experience from the other person's point of view. And I'm pretty sure that most tyrants, serial killers, and king cichlids don't have empathy. So I was trying to say that he wasn't being king cichlid if he shows both agency and empathy.

So, if anything, I don't think we need to raise human beings with less of a cichlid quotient. I think a lot of people suppress their agency too much. And for the tyrants and others behaving as king cichlids, I think the problem is no empathy. And I'm not sure what to do about that unless you're willing to implement universal, annual Voight-Kampff tests.

#115 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:11 AM:

Craig R.@78

Are you possibly referring to "The Demon Breed" by James Schmitz?

#116 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:16 AM:

Terry @ 103: I'm glad you broached the topic. It would be reaching to call me a sailor as I've only read Hornblower and other similar books, which sometimes takes people aback. I have a warped sense of humor -- isn't that a kicker? -- and folks find it hard to ketch up.

#117 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:25 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 111: I'm not sure it was just lack of diagnosis -- although that is definitely an issue and is one of the reasons for doing BAER in all infants. His point was more that I'd had a nurturing environment even before diagnosis (at the age of 4), and had been taught to read as well as speak. (My reading helped my speaking, but I don't think I would have done as well if I hadn't been gifted as a reader.) From his perspective, my family made it possible for me to develop somewhat normally despite the lack of good hearing. I think some of that is true, but exactly how much is related to them, and how much is related to my innate abilities, and so on, is a big set of unknowns.

I actually don't agree on nature v nurture (spelled it right this time!). I think it's nature + nurture. ;-)

#118 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:53 AM:

Bruce @ 111, Ginger @ 117: I still get mad on behalf of an ex-girlfriend's son, who didn't get diagnosed with 80% in one ear and 65% in the other until he was EIGHT GODDAMMED YEARS OLD.

It was so clear that so many of his behavioral problems--and were they ever!--came down to his inability to communicate. That's life in hell--all those people around you and no one to talk with.

Once he was put into a residential school and given the care he deserved, he did well.

#119 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:00 AM:

Heresiarch @102:

That was the only part of the cichlid example that sounded off to me: anti-social behavior gets worse as size decreases? That's never been my experience. Generally, the larger the community, the worse the anti-social behavior gets.

While those of us here who have kept cichlids seem to agree that this is rather unusual for them, I have seen something similar to this behaviour elsewhere. If you keep two rats in a cage, one of them becomes dominant and, depending on the rat's personality, will often bully the other repeatedly. Sometimes the problem can be alleviated by introducing new rats to the cage... the power structure becomes more fluid, and the fights are distributed between more rats, so it's less the case that one is the bully and the other is the victim. There's no actual change of behaviour, but the effect of the behaviour when the number of victims to choose from is small is worse.

#120 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:33 AM:

Ginger @ 117... I think it's nature + nurture

You mean there are still people who think it's one or the other?

#121 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:50 AM:

Serge @ 120: Sadly, yes. And then they argue with each other over which is more important.

#122 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:53 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @118: That's awful to have it not diagnosed for so long..and I hope he's doing well now. Hearing disabilies are socially disabling (and for some reason blindness is not), so I hope he's been able to overcome and social issues as well.

#123 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:54 AM:

I haven't checked back with J and S to find out what kind of cichlids they had; they simply described them as "cichlids" with no further information.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

#124 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:56 AM:

I agree with Lee @ #27 that it's hard to go wrong with Schmitz, but it's worth noting that there's a definite clump of interesting-ecology stories in The Hub: Dangerous Territory (including the story recommended by Craig R. @ #78). Another point in its favour, if you don't mind ebooks, is that it's in the Baen Free Library.

#125 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:04 AM:

Blindness is maybe more obvious to most people (speaking as someone with hearing-impaired and Deaf family members).

I'm in favor of teaching Sign, starting as young as possible, to everyone.

#126 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:12 AM:

P J 125: I think that's one of those great ideas that is unlikely to catch would allow kids to silently communicate, which is both why it would be a good idea and why most parents wouldn't like it!

#127 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:21 AM:

PJ @125: That's been one of my fantasies for years -- make the schools teach sign. Along with dropping the drinking age to 3 and raising the driving age to 30...

I know. Call me crazy. ::waits::

#128 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:22 AM:

Xopher @126:
I think that's one of those great ideas that is unlikely to catch would allow kids to silently communicate, which is both why it would be a good idea and why most parents wouldn't like it!

There are other ways to do that.

#129 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:30 AM:

abi #123: Further bulletins as events warrant.

Even though I've seen several pictures of you, I will now eternally picture you as about three feet tall, with spiky blond hair and a striped red shirt, and a propensity to terrorize babysitters.

#130 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Ginger @ 122: Most humans communicate through spoken language. Blindness affects the ability to read and write, but not to speak and listen. I think that's the nub of it.

I suspect people also have some prejudice against the way some deaf people sound when they do speak. That's a hard one to parse out, because you do have to learn to listen to how they speak, and while it's right for those of us who hear well to cope with that difficulty, it's still an effort. Whether people are reacting to the effort or the difference matters somewhat.

#131 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:42 AM:

Ginger: I have to hand it to you, by and large you are able to trim your sails to the conversation (I can look through the threads and reef-er to many a case where you were even an anchor in them), no fid-dling while Rome burns for you, but rather a steady stream of pitching in with a will, tacking part in the, foul and twisted, lines of diversionary wordplay no matter the heading; nor with any concern for how it might bear on the topic at hand, nor how groggy, and punch-drunk the rest of us may get.

A yeoman's effort, all around.

Jules: I don't recall having any bullying problems with the rats we've kept. Mice, oh yeah, but when we were still keeping/breeding rats, they were the ones which needed little attention to who was with whom (and you can move pups from one mother to the other; without problem).

Our mice are better, now, but that's the result of going on eight years of selective breeding, (and actively selecting against traits we don't like... since we have the mice because we have too many snakes, removing unwanted members of the gene pool can be done in an instant), but they still aren't all sweetness and light.

Blindness isn't more socially disabling because it does set one off, but doesn't set one apart. A blind person can still interact with people, and doesnt' require special aids to do it. A deaf person either has to be able to write (which is a barrier) or the hearing person has to adapt (learn sign). It is, in some ways inherently, othering.

I really wish my ASL was still up to snuff.

#132 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 12:15 PM:

Ginger @ 121... then they argue with each other over which is more important

...when one could simply point out to them that it's not the same nature/nurture proportion for everyone? I guess there are some people who need the Answer that will fit everybody.

#133 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 12:38 PM:

Terry Karney, I am bemused by your selective breeding of mice; we've been doing the same thing with cattle for as long as I can remember (since one of my earlier memories is Dad taking the rifle out and shooting a yearling bull that had knocked him down with intent to damage). We don't keep aggressive cattle, since there are so many of them and so few of us and even when nonaggressive, cattle are approximately two cubic yards of stupid and damaging in proportion.

I wish, at the moment, I kept the same standards for plants. I'm still picking stickers out of the back of my legs four days after backing into a pile of Stanwell Perpetual prunings my son (and happy 22nd birthday to him) assured me he was taking to the brush pile. In March.

#134 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 12:47 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @ 130: It is true that we communicate with speech, yet we are extremely visual and place a high value on things we see. Which is the disability most people would not want -- deafness or blindness? What terminology do we use to indicate understanding and meta-communication? Not only do we value musicians, but we also value and appreciate paintings that can only be seen to be admired. And how are we communicating now -- do you hear me? See what I mean? ;-)

Terry @ 131: I salute you, for this could have degenerated into broadsides and general carnage. I know I have aweigh to go before I can keep up with a master like you, but I'll give it a shot. May-belayter we can pour a bit of grog and swab stories.

Serge @ 132: Some people never think beyond their pet hypotheses, and don't want to let go (as it might be considered "losing"). Scientists are just as competitive as anyone else, just in different ways. Heck, even the best of us (veterinarians) can get tunnel vision and go down the wrong diagnostic path.

#135 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 12:58 PM:

I should point out that most of you are thinking of Deaf people -- unable to hear well, usually don't speak unless they come from a oralist tradition, and use ASL. I am only small "d" deaf, being hard-of-hearing (HOH); I can use the telephone, and my knowledge of sign is minimal (not used == soon lost). I don't fit into the Deaf community, and I'm not a hearing person. There's more of us than there used to be, especially as baby boomers age and become LD (late deafened) or HOH. They have an adjustment period, and need to become accustomed to life with a hearing aid. I've worn mine for more than 40 years (not the same ones, don't worry).

Now you know.

#136 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:02 PM:

Ginger @ 134: True, but spoken communication precedes (and preceded) written communication.

I think it comes down to effort. Given the current state of affairs, it's harder work to learn to communicate with the deaf than with the blind. Many people don't like to make that effort.

Arguably, they suck. Arguably, they do not suck.

We could make changes, with adaptive technology and with educational practices, to lower that effort level. If enough people got that training, it'd be like herd immunity. It's worth trying.

My father-in-law took a sign language class with his daughters, I think just because he thought it was a neat thing to do (he'd learned the rudiments in seminary), and for a mom's night off activity. This led to my wife working summers at the Arkansas School for the Deaf. I've never learned sign, but perhaps it's something we should take up with the daughter as a family activity.

Oh, and @ 135: My mother-in-law uses hearing aids now. I'm told all the women on her side of the family develop poor hearing. There's something for me to keep in mind the daughter gets older.

#137 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:05 PM:

Ginger, I think blindness is more disabling, but deafness is more othering. Witness the fact that there's a "deaf community," but no corresponding blind community. I think this is because deaf people have a separate language (ASL is not very much like English, though of course there's a certain amount of influence, and the mode of it is disconcerting for many hearing people, who among other things aren't used to constant eye-contact).

As for Nature vs. Nurture, the case of identical twins gives that phrase new meaning, while providing insight into the fact that there's more Nature in us than we think: twins raised apart have greater similarity in personality and style than twins raised together, often to an unnerving degree. Twins raised together find ways to differentiate themselves. Connie Willis tells the story of seeing on TV some twins raised apart who met for the first time in their 30s; she says they both liked to wear lots of rings, and wore the same number and kind on the same fingers; smoked the same brand of cigarettes; and when they laughed, it was in perfect unison.

#138 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:20 PM:

Ginger: Good point, and I should have been more clear.

Funny story, about expectations. I've been babysitting a newborn, while his mother takes classes (partly from desire, partly to make herself more hirable, and partly to stave off student loans).

So, I needed a place to sit with him (back in Feb, when I wasn't familiar with the campus, we didn't know if he would be happy enough to be half a mile away when he got fussy, etc). So I stopped into the Deaf Students' Computer Lab.

With much pain I was reminded that 20 years is enough time to forget huge chunks of what was only tolerably adequate vocabulary.

We used a lot of writing (a newborn is a hotbed of interest). About six weeks later I was waiting outside the classroom, while the woman who tends the lab was sitting across the way.

Her phone rang, and she asnwered it; with voice. She's an interpreting student (maybe a grad student). We'd both managed to get by in a second language; and not spoken, for weeks. I don't know why she assumed I was deaf (or at least very HoH), other than stopping into the lab.

I don't know why she didn't disabuse me of my thinking she was deaf.

It did remind me of how different it is to be on the outside.

When I was taking ASL (a very good interpreting program; which got around the state requirement for all programs to be two-years, by requiring a level of basic proficiency; which usually took a year to attain. I know a lot of ASL interpreters who got their educations there; and that from people I didn't meet while there; or through there, but I digress), we used to talk about which we'd rather lose, sight or sound.

It was always tough. Not to be able to take pictures? Not to be able to hear music? Not to be able to just absorb information through my eyes (maybe my braille would get good, but I don't think I'd ever be able to apprehend in the way I do with words. They are in a way I can't explain. I don't, usually, have to process them).

So I think, all, in all, I'd rather be deaf, because most of the things I really want to be able to do (talk to people) I can do while deaf. I lose the ability to use my voice as a persuasive tool, and I can't hear when others do it (though if that meant I didn't have to listen to the lisping slurs of GWB again... nah, still not worth it).

But that's becuase I know how effective the alternates to speech are. I don't know (and this was a harder conversation) which of those difficulties I'd rather my child have.

#139 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:24 PM:

Xopher @ 137: "I think blindness is more disabling, but deafness is more othering"

Wow. That's brilliant. I think this is what John A Arkansawyer is trying say as well.

There's nothing else I can add.

#140 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:30 PM:

Xopher @ #126: a data point in your favor is that my kids (not hearing-impaired) were forbidden to fingerspell during "silent lunch" at school (when the monitors put up a sign indicating that the kids are getting too loud and speaking is forbidden).

Ginger @#139, Helen Keller said that being blind separates you from things, and being deaf separates you from people.

#141 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:32 PM:

JESR: I don't know a cattle breeder who doesn't do similar things. It's been interesting. Our mice don't bite us. Our rate of cannibalism of pinkies is down, and we can keep males in the same cage.

I don't know what to do about the plants. Somehow they seem more intractable. Some of that is just the difficulty in keeping them from pollinating with plants that have traits we don't like.

#142 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:33 PM:

Ginger @ 140 re Xopher @ 137: Yeah. I almost gave it up after Xopher got it in one pithy little nutshell.

#143 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:40 PM:

ASL is seen as a "secret" language when hearing people use it. I recall being struck dumb by something, and telling a friend about it (with ASL) and she burst out laughing. It was assumed we were talking about other people.

The deaf are seen as living in a world apart. That they have a different culture, well it just raises the bar.

The hearing tend to see them as uniform (I don't know how many times I heard that sign language must be the same the whole world round).

Or, in some way blindenss doesn't (perhaps because it's easier for the blind person to explain. It's also easier for people to pretend to be; and so think they understand), being Deaf is seen as something which makes one a different sort of person (that othering we're discussing).

There have been (but I've not seen) studies on how deaf (and HoH) people interact on the net, and how it changes the way they see the world... on the net no one knows you're deaf.

And now that the net (which wasn't a presence when I was in college) is there, I'll take deafness; hands down.

#144 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:44 PM:

Terry Karney @ 138:

I don't know why she didn't disabuse me of my thinking she was deaf.

When I was heavily involved with local left-wing politics, I was a bit ahead of the curve on gay and lesbian issues. (We were a back-to-the-land backwash community, and a lot of the gay and lesbian [especially lesbian] action was in separatism, so straight people were slow to understand.) I discovered that a fair number of people who knew me but not well thought I was gay.

Out of solidarity, I made a habit of never correcting straight people on that point, with the occasional exception of women I wanted to sleep with badly enough to get into the discussion. With gays and lesbians, I did make the correction if it seemed as though I were flying under a false flag, like when I was asking them to vote for me, but that seldom happened.

It's not the same thing, but there it is.

#145 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:45 PM:

Much as I'd like to claim credit...Terry said it first, back at 131. I will cheerfully claim credit for the pithification* though!

*Yes, it is—NOW. Don't be pithed off about it.

#146 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 02:05 PM:

One of the things I most appreciated about ASL was how quickly (unlike french) it changed my mode of thought/worldview.

It is the only language program I've ever been in which was total immersion (from the second day of class; no speech. This led to some interesting mistakes... the woman who was trying to ask, "what is the color tan? and instead asked, "what color is sex?", which outed Lisa and myself as knowing some signs not yet in the vocabulary, as we snorted; and the instructor blushed. Both of us had to sit on our hand to keep from making, the same, rude response).

By the third week (so 12 hours of class time) we'd leave the room in conversation, and be some distance from the room (usually about four of us) and it would be somewhere between 50-150 yards when we realised we could speak to get some concept we were struggling with across.

To sit with the deaf students, was to be part of another world. No biggie, for us, we were welcome, but the passers-by, assumed we were deaf too. Suddenly we were, "other." We to be a minority twice (hearing in the deaf world, and so (absent years of work) in but not of) and perceieved as deaf by the hearing, and so we got to see what they actually thought.


Xopher: We all understand that you can be a pithiable creature at times.

#147 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 02:10 PM:

Terry @ 131, Xopher @145: You're right again, and I promise I'll never get pithed at you. It was a very pithy saying, if you don't mind my thaying tho.

#148 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 02:16 PM:

Oh yeah, ASL was the first foreign language I dreamt in. That was odd because there was no sound(as mentioned before, my dreams have sound... though I can't understand how people's dreams don't).

#149 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 02:49 PM:

Now I'm feeling all pithetic.

#150 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 02:57 PM:

Things might change in the direction of more people using ASL if more parents start teaching their infants sign.

Babies can learn to do elementary sign somewhere around 6 months, long before they are physically able to control the vocal cords well enough to speak. The period where they have developed awareness and have definite wants/desires but no way to communicate them are the most frustrating for both parent and infant, as any parent knows.

We tried sign with our son: by 9 or 10 months he had learned "food", "more", "milk", "done", "give", "toilet" (for wet diapers, etc.), and we were working on "please". Maybe a few more; I can't remember. Unfortunately, neither of us knew sign well enough to keep going with it. We've wished we could have continued, but once Seth started speaking and his spoken vocabulary zoomed, we left sign behind.

Maybe some day we'll all take classes in it.

#151 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 03:01 PM:

P.S. That made it sound like it took until our son was 9 months old, which it didn't; by 6 or 7 months he had learned "eat" and "milk" which made a huge difference, and then slowly added more.

#152 ::: Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 03:56 PM:

Some parents and nursery schools are now using sign with infants for the reasons Clifton mentioned.

#153 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 04:19 PM:

I work with a preschooler who can't speak because parts of her mouth and throat are paralyzed. She has only moderate hearing loss (has aids), is quite intelligent, and is rapidly learning ASL. By contrast, the only speech sounds she can produce are "mmmm" and "nnnn". So her speech therapist is recommending she be placed with deaf and HoH kids; she can socialize in sign far, far better than she could in speech (and it'll be a few years before she's able to write well enough).

#154 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 04:27 PM:

My younger son (who is now twenty and won't shut up), started speaking late. As a result he learned to sign before he could speak (although he's now forgotten how).

#155 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 05:56 PM:

Edward Oleander @ 91: Very cool. I've always had this dream of selectively breeding cats for language acquisition. Can't be harder than no hair, or roses that don't smell like anything, right?

#156 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 08:08 PM:

Bruce @ 111, Ginger @ 117, John A Arkansawyer #118:

My hearing loss didn't get diagnosed until I was in fourth grade, but it was a fairly mild hearing loss, originally something like 10-20db. So sign language was never an issue. (It's gotten worse over time -- given that my hearing aids are essentially amplifiers stuck into my ears, they ironically have inflicted a certain amount of damage, to where my loss was easily 40-50db last time I got tested.

Of course, my NLD didn't get diagnosed at all -- but then Asperger's was brand-new when I was in high-school, and I was obviously doing so well....

One factoid I've heard about sign is that it counts as a language for establishing the "bilingual advantage" in learning new languages later.

Cats and dominance:

My cat Gremlin has been talking a lot more since we moved down from NYC -- sometimes I can't figure out what she wants, but she definitely leads me to the food bowl and to bed (for petting). She also gets annoyed when I stay up too late (see above).

I actually got her due to an interesting dominance clash... with her former owner J, she was the new kitten living with another cat, who belonged to J's roommate. Unfortunately, the other cat didn't want company, and bullied her mercilessly. Then (to abridge) Gremlin got pregnant as a "teen mother" (less than a year old) and became much more aggressive, while also reaching her full growth. That made her a fair bit bigger than the other cat -- and naturally, the tables were turned.

Unfortunately for J and Gremlin, there was also a dominance issue on the human side of things -- the roommate was the lease-holder! End result: J gave Gremlin to me (she got along just fine with my rabbit) and kept one of Gremlin's kittens, who had developed a more balanced relationship with the roomie's cat.

Ralph Giles @#155: Be careful what you wish for!

#157 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:01 PM:

Jules @ 119: "If you keep two rats in a cage, one of them becomes dominant and, depending on the rat's personality, will often bully the other repeatedly."

That makes sense to me--one-on-one relationships are very unstable, minus any kind of group to give behavioral cues.

Xopher @ 145: Hey, I'm not the pithy one here. You're the one getting all pithy.

#158 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:14 PM:

I'd rather not have any … well, hardly any … of our Fluoruospherical comrades pithed.

#159 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:57 PM:

John A Arkansawyer, #144, I always figure nobody needs to know my sexual orientation unless they want to date me and then they can ask. It always bothers me when people say "Oh, gays are all right, but I'm not one." By putting that little denial on the end, they've reversed the beginning.

#160 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 12:27 AM:

John A. Arkansawyer: Missed your comment.

I have often been thought gay. I don't go out of my way, one way or the other, to inform people of my sexual preference.

But that's not quite the same as foregoing a means of communication. She knew I had studied sign, so I was obviously inclined to friendliness to the deaf (even, perhaps, solidarity), and she wasn't having an easy time with our attempts to talk about babies (I hated forgetting weeks, and having to say how old the baby was by counting days).

It just never came up. When I walked in, I assumed she was deaf. So I signed to her. She continued, even to telling me when she was closing in sign.

It worked, and I suppose that's really what did it, neither of us felt a need to try speech, and one of the things I learned in my time of study is that one can bridge the gap, if one is flexible of mind, and willing to fail.

#161 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 03:25 AM:

Ginger @ 134:
"Which is the disability most people would not want -- deafness or blindness? "

For me, the most-not-wanted would be blindness. Indeed, I'm still thrilled, after three months, by the improved brightness & color perception resulting from replacing the lenses in my eyes with clear plastic ones, and the original-issue ones were getting only slightly clouded.

But I've been HoH since mid-20s (paternal inheritance), with hearing-aids (though generally an annoyance & sometimes infuriating) preventing too much of a state of Otherness. (Actually, since early childhood, I've rather relished & cultivated being Different ... to a certain degree.) But in the past year or so my hearing has deteriorated to the point that I don't think any Aids will help. Sunday, I stood right next to the Northern Drum at a powwow -- a dozen young men, singing as loud/hard as they could in the "tightly-controlled scream" that's characteristic of Northern Plains Indian singing -- and all I could hear was the Honoring Beats (much harder/louder than the usual ones) on the drum. And when I danced on Honoring Songs and Veterans' Songs I had to take my cue for stopping from watching the other dancers. So my regular-life social interactions have declined to nearly zero. And I have little reason to attend s-f Cons any more -- close to 90% of the pleasure from them depended on hearing what people were saying. This hearing loss has resulted in considerably more Otherness than I really want.

But at least I can "hear" everything people say on the computer monitor (which doesn't always extend to understanding what they _mean_, but there's always been an element of that). I've always considered being HoH to be an annoyance; being blind would be more like a severe handicap. And I'm not sure I'd be able (at the age of 79+) to adjust to a combination of both of them. Fortunately, there doesn't seem to be any particular prospect of visual deterioration, but it is one of the few things that can terrify me.

#162 ::: Lindra ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 10:07 AM:

Ginger @ 134:

That's one of my favourite questions to ask people (and my least favourite to be asked, usually because it's so often shaded with the expectation that I would jump at the chance to be not-like-me) and the range of answers is huge, at least in my limited anecdotal sample.

Every blind person I've met who has either lived with their blindness since birth (or early on) or for over a decade, two decades, says they'd rather be blind than deaf. Every deaf person I've met, same criteria, says they'd rather be deaf than blind. However, people who haven't yet settled into their disability, refuse to accept that the disability exists (for them or in others), or are late-deafened and find that they are still in the mourning process for what they used to have, tend to have their results reversed from the settled group or do a lot of hemming and hawing before saying that both would be equally bad.

I find the answers to your question depend a lot on whether the person in question has a) existing disabilities or previous personal experience with disabilities (not necessarily blindness or deafness), b) experience with disability within their immediate family or acquaintance, or c) a profession highly dependent on one or both of the senses involved or a family tradition of those professions. All of these go one way or the other as far as they affect the results, but people who have a strong answer tend to have at least one of those reasons behind it.

For me, I'd rather be deaf, just as I am now, because it's what I know and what I know I can handle and the prospect of blindness scares the crap out of me. So much of my life depends on sight as a result of my deafness that I find it hard to fathom how I could trust my hearing enough to rely on it for day-to-day activities.

And also all the way back up at Ginger @ 76: I was diagnosed at two or three, I think, with severe-to-profound hearing loss, and all of my teachers expected me to do not very well at all. But I failed to fail, and I cannot tell you how many times I overheard through the fine art of speechreading 'But she's supposed to be stupid!' or saw it said directly to me. I still wonder sometimes if I was supposed to apologise.

But my experience growing up was a lot like yours -- very good environment, lots of books, lots of encouragement to learn how to read and write, as well as hearing aids and some intensive one-on-one teaching (thank you, Australian government services!) and like you I'm sure I wouldn't have done half so well in school if I hadn't been a good reader.

Bruce Cohen (StM), @ 111:

I spent most of high school going to and from the specialised 'deaf classroom' (most of the students didn't know the room existed, let alone what it was for) and most of my fellow D/deaf students there were diagnosed late, no attention was paid to them, didn't get enough government support (partially for racial reasons, sadly enough), were taught to hate reading, and their overall language skills bore out the 'three grades behind' estimate.

I also saw that as more government services were introduced, and more information disseminated through initiatives like Deafness Awareness Week and mandatory testing and such, each new crop of students closed the gap further. The gap was there, yes, and there were exceptions, but they caught up very quickly and by the year I left the entering year eights finished the year at or almost at grade level. A very rapid change, and quite disconcerting for the Support staff and myself to watch, but things are improving.

#163 ::: Lindra ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 10:14 AM:

To sort-of digress from the thread at large, AKICML and so on: the article on Nicaraguan sign language and the earlier discussion of agency and lack of reminds me of something else -- I have a pet theory that child soldiers with a lot of exposure to weaponry probably use some sort of sign language as a result, or are taught (in?) sign language or some sort of manual-speech mix before/after they are freed.

I've read it mentioned in scattered human rights reports that there are current/former child soldiers who communicate in sign language, and the languages themselves are probably fascinating as all get out due to the circumstances, but I don't know where to begin researching. It's a question that's been bothering me since I first came across references to children deafened by conflict, years ago. Thoughts? Am I barking up the wrong tree?

#164 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 11:17 AM:

Lindra: I am sure there are such sign languages. All armies have the seeds of such things (because they have need to communicate silently, and more detailed information than the hand waving of, "get your butt over here." So it stands to reason that people who were losing their hearing, and young enough to be plastic of mind would elaborate the basic system.

The questions it raises (for linquistics) are intetersting, but I don't know of anyone working on it. Then again, I'm not as active in keeping up with linguistics as I used to be.

#165 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 11:43 AM:

Don Fitch @ 161: I'm so sorry that your hearing aids aren't working well enough for you any more. Have you talked to your audiologist about alternatives? I'd hate for you to miss out on SF cons because of that.

I agree with you though; I would not want to be blind. Cataract surgery is one of the neat things humans have learned to do. We can even do this in other species, to the same benefit.

#166 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 11:50 AM:

Lindra @ 162: Amen, sister! There's too much to see in the world, but having no sound is not an issue to me.

We called it lipreading, but it's the same thing. I've lost most of my lipreading ability as my hearing aids have made the difference, but I expect I'll have to regain those skills as I hit the declining years and my aids won't be able to overcome the deficit.

School systems vary in their goodness/badness. Thinking about what you wrote reminded me of the elementary school speech pathologist who tried to assess my hearing -- I came home and told my folks that he didn't know what he was doing. They had a little discussion with him and from then on he hated me. He couldn't do anything though, as I went outside the school for my one-on-one training in lipreading and speech. I haven't thought about him in...a looooooooong time (obligatory cross-thread reference!).

Early intervention makes such a wonderful improvement in children. :-)

#167 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 11:54 AM:

Cataract surgery is one of the neat things humans have learned to do. We can even do this in other species, to the same benefit.

I really, really wish I could afford to have cataract surgery* for my poor cat. He had an eye infection when he was a kitten and now has cloudy spots in his right eye; the entire cornea of the left is obscured. It makes him really skittish, his right pupil has actually shifted so he can see around the bad spot, and I suspect he gets headaches from the things he has to do with his eyes to get a good sight of anything.

At that he's luckier than his littermate, who lost an eye to the infection.

* I'm not certain that his bad spots are actually cataracts, but there's got to be something that could be done. But I can't afford it.

#168 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 01:03 PM:

Carrie @ 167: If the cornea was damaged, the lens may still be ok -- I'd have to look in his eyes with a slit lamp to assess it. I have a cat with diabetic cataracts, and he isn't bothered by the lack of clarity in his world -- but then, he's a very mellow cat. It may be more a personality issue for your baby, but it doesn't mean we can't do something about it. Have you talked to your vet about it? Some vets will be happy to work out a payment plan, or apply a discount for valued customers.

If you have specific questions, please feel free to email me any time.

#169 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Ginger: Thanks, I may take you up on that. :) In the meantime, it's getting to be about time for the rabies shot anyway, so after I traumatize the poor boy by shutting him in a carrier and putting him in the Noisy Machine, I should ask the vet about his eyes.

The vet's never seen this cat, as his shots were up to date when we got him a year ago. His sister, yes, when she developed a polyp the size of her brain in her nasal cavity*, but not him.

They were rescued from a collector, which means they entirely lack the general cat pickiness about food; if it's even vaugely cat-digestible, they'll eat it. Sebastian does have a nasty habit of trying to keep Viola away from the dry food, though (just to bring this back around to social behavior).

* Seriously--the damn thing was about the size of my thumb, it's no wonder her breathing was obstructed. Then she got another that caused her to briefly be able to breathe through her ear when it was removed, which was freaky.

#170 ::: B.Loppe ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 02:37 PM:

One more ecology-based SF recommendation here: Julie E. Czerneda. She's a biologist who writes fairly wonderful alien races and ecologies. I would particularly point out the Species Imperative trilogy, which focuses on evolutionary biology and ecology most clearly (the protagonist is a biologist working on salmon populations in an ecological preserve in BC when the book opens.) However my favourite of hers is a standalone called "In the Company of Others" which goes from a careful look at what human social interaction might look like in extremely crowded conditions aboard a space station, from the perspective of someone who can't be touched, then ends up at the other extreme.

#171 ::: B.Loppe ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 02:39 PM:

*pink faced embarrasment* wrong thread. Too many tabs open at once. *slinks off back to lurkdom*

#172 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 02:59 PM:

B. Loppe: I think I did the same thing. We can only hope the person(s) who want them are reading the threads in which we wrong-posted.

#173 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 03:22 PM:

You could always repost them in the appropriate thread. No need to slink and lurk.

#174 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 03:55 PM:

Michael at 15:

David Brin's Uplift trilogy has a lot of different alien species in it, though I don't know how ecological it gets. The three that follow the trilogy (which I never could finish) might have more ecological stuff in them.

#175 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 04:16 PM:

One of our cats has big cloudy spots on the surface of the eye because when we found her as an abandoned kitten she had a horrendous eye infection, so swollen you couldn't even see the eyeball inside one of the sockets. It cleared up well with antibiotics, but left some scarring on the eye. Despite this, she is the perkiest and most cheerful of our four cats, and as far as we can tell, the impairment doesn't seem to be bothering her at all.

#176 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 04:16 PM:

B Loppe and Terry: I think this is the correct thread. We've just had the typical thread drift, and tangles, and knots.

(There. Back to nautical puns again!)

#177 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 04:54 PM:

One of our cats has big cloudy spots on the surface of the eye

Yeah, that sounds like Sebastian. The one eye just has spots, the other is completely filmed over.

#178 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 07:22 PM:

Ginger, Shoal nice to know I didn't get too far off course.

Wheel, I'll be off now, and watch what I'm doing with more care.

#179 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 07:29 PM:

Ginger... Knots in the mizzen, and knit a few mittens?

#180 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 08:30 PM:

David Harmon: The ultimate reason we don't have bullying here on ML, is because the people who "own the territory" -- Teresa and Patrick -- have the inclination, strength, and ability to exclude the bullies. The effects of relationship are less obvious, because they're aligned with those of dominance. That is, many of the "old-timers" and the most prolific posters have connections to the moderators, forming an alliance group. With less enlightened leaders, that could easily be a nightmare -- but "first-class people pick other first-class people". So the "ruling clique" here chooses to enforce higher principles than mere personal power... and only the trolls get the nightmares.

All of which leads to the favorite troll speech about how the moderators' low tolerance for bullying does itself constitute bullying. (Indeed. Peer pressure: Usable for good!) File under "You're intolerant of my intolerance, so you're not really tolerant!" and other false gotchas.

#181 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 08:38 PM:

Lindra @ 162

I'm delighted to hear that the diagnosis of deafness is being done better and earlier. When we were first living together, my partner Eva was a special ed art teacher, working for a school district that was just barely better than barbaric in its diagnosis and treatment; the two categories of children I felt lost out the most were the deaf, because they were usually completely mis-diagnosed as developmentally-delayed or even -arrested, and the autistics, because this was a time when no one had a clue what autism was, and very few teachers or psychologists were interested in finding out. It's nice to live in a world where people are treated better by other people as time goes on.

#182 ::: Marc ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 10:44 PM:

Mike @15:
Any particular reason you skipped Dune? I was about the same age when Dad gave me Dune and the first four are among my favorite SF of all time.

#183 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 01:23 AM:

Ginger, #166, during the second renal failure, someone pushed the Lasix too fast and I lost hearing for a few weeks (the first doctor didn't even consider the Lasix and ordered an antihistamine, which I kept refusing, and I'm sure the nurses charted) and the nurses kept saying "but you can hear us" and I'd say "I'm reading your lips!" They didn't believe me. Thank Ghu the next rounding doc was my primary and she knew what was wrong instantly when I complained of not-hearing and she switched me to Bumex IV push and my hearing came back in about two weeks.

Carrie S., #167, one of my cats is going blind (genetic disease, she's half-Siamese) and while she isn't quite as calm about it as people say cats are, she's doing okay. (She has anxiety disorder and compulsive disorder, which is why she ended up with me, and so nothing is really very calm.)

#184 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 09:25 AM:

#114, Greg London -

Wow. I was reading your theory about agency and thinking, "Hey, I think I have trouble expressing agency," and then you quoted almost verbatim something that I put into an email today - "I don't want to cause trouble." Sounds like I'm in the "reluctant to express agency" group.

When I think about my childhood, I don't remember being particularly repressed by the adults in my life, so it must have come from the bullies. I've definitely got food for thought now.

#128, abi -

I haven't read For Better or Worse in ages, but I continue to be impressed with how the author is aging her characters. It's interesting to see.

#185 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 10:20 AM:

Marilee @ 183: while she isn't quite as calm about it as people say cats are, she's doing okay.

Some cats are extremely sensitive and nervous. I have one now who is..shall we say, delicate? Picking her up makes her nervous. Doing something new makes her nervous. You can practically see her trying to think, as the gears get overheated and the smoke starts emanating. Towards other cats, she's normal. Towards humans, she's nervous.

Years ago I had a differently-nervous cat. He was more schizophrenic, and wow -- he could be a huge pain to deal with.

In general, male cats tend to be mellow (barring the schizoid exception as above), and female cats tend to be more paranoid/irritable. This is not to say that all cats are this way; I've had mellow females too.

One thing they all seem to agree on is tuna. ;-)

#186 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 10:28 AM:

R.M. Koske @#184: I haven't read For Better or Worse in ages, but I continue to be impressed with how the author is aging her characters.

ISTR that she actually stopped doing that last year, but I haven't kept up with it, and more recent newsbites seem to suggest that she's shifted tactics to wrapping the plotlines in preparation for semi-retirement. Regardless, the FBoFW corpus is definitely one of the best and most humanistic strips of all time.

#187 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 01:29 PM:

R. M. Koske @184: I haven't read For Better or Worse in ages, but I continue to be impressed with how the author is aging her characters. It's interesting to see.

One interesting and bizarre effect she has made use of on her site: gif animation to make her characters blink (it's really only bizarre because you don't expect 'newspaper' comics to do that).

#188 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 09:32 AM:

I wouldn't expect any strip to do that. It breaks the convention that each panel's a frozen moment in time - if people's eyelids are moving, why isn't anything else?

#189 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 08:11 PM:

I could use a shopping gene, or a partner who had it. At least one of my partners has a book-shopping gene, but that doesn't take care of my need for jeans that fit.

#190 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 01:37 PM:

Some biological sf:

The Remarkables by Robert Reed, and, well, an awful lot of his other stuff too. His novella "A Billion Eves" for instance deals among other things with ecological damage done by invasive species including cats, starlings, and humans.

The Seedling Stars by James Blish

The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin

FungiFromYuggoth @56:

given a tabula rasa, would it be possible to raise human beings with less cichlid quotient? And would it be ethical to withhold information from humans to try and make them better people?

That was a major theme of James P. Hogan's Voyage from Yesteryear, one of his better books. The utopian colony consists of humans hatched from artificial wombs and raised by robots; then a ship full of humans from Earth comes along, culture shock ensues. It was thought-provoking but not terribly convincing. There was a Howard Fast story on the same theme, set on Earth; a group of orphans raised in a secluded place by a group of adults who were very selective about what they taught them. They developed psi powers and disappeared, IIRC.

#191 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 02:49 PM:

Jim, #190: Thank you for providing the overall title for the Blish stories -- I was blanking on it upthread.

John Barnes' Orbital Resonance has a subplot about how one transfer kid from Earth completely undoes years of careful non-bullying training in the protagonist's school. It's downright scary to read, and suggests the Achilles heel of that kind of thing: lacking knowledge of the tactics of bullying, the other kids are incredibly vulnerable to being manipulated by a skillful user of them.

#192 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 03:17 PM:

Jim Henry #190: James P. Hogan's Voyage from Yesteryear, one of his better books. The utopian colony consists of humans hatched from artificial wombs and raised by robots; then a ship full of humans from Earth comes along, culture shock ensues.

Should've known someone did it already. Phooey.

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