Solar Eclipse

There was a partial solar eclipse yesterday, and I wanted to try to get photos of it. I know the photos I got of it aren’t really all that great, but I was just happy to have anything remotely usable; all my previous attempts to photograph the sun haven’t worked out in any real way. I have a pair of welder’s goggles that I bought a couple of years ago to watch the Transit of Venus, so I put those on over my sunglasses which made me feel a bit like the villain in that Doctor Who episode. I added a Neutral Density filter to my lens and then just sort of wished for luck.

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1/4000, f/45, 300mm

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1/3200, f/45, 300mm

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1/2000, f/45, 300mm

With the last one, I did try to focus more consciously on the twigs in front of the eclipse; it looks to me like the other two ended up that way as well, but it was a deliberate attempt in the last shot. I would have liked to have stayed out for more photos, but my daughter wanted to go for a bike ride, so we did that instead.

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Die Enten

Some ducks swimming in Bear Creek.  I didn’t get many good shots of them, several were blurry.  At times a male and the female were swimming side by side in one of those moments that would look super-saccharine if you didn’t know anything about ducks.  But I wasn’t able to capture those since the ducks didn’t take any direction very well.

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Hate Addict

I’m the last person you want to come to for advice if you’re looking to justify the way you’re acting when you know you shouldn’t be acting that way. I’m not sympathetic to someone who continually chooses poorly, or is undisciplined, or determined to make the wrong choices. I’m not the person you come to when you need to be coddled.

I’ve been reading about addictions lately and some studies about the ways the human brain treats addictive behaviors. I’m not a medical professional and I didn’t think biology (as a class) was particularly interesting; but I found it interesting to know that your mind keeps you enslaved to those things that it finds nice.

Question, what’s the difference between sugar and cocaine to your brain? Answer: Nothing. There are a whole slew of things recently studied that trigger the reward hormone dopamine in our brains. Sugar, that’s added to practically everything Americans shove in their gaping mouths incidentally, has been found to fire up the pleasure centers in the brain the same way cocaine rewards those addicts. And yes, the result is that America as a nation is addicted to sugar.

I started to wonder about the other ways people learn to trigger that pleasure center in their brains, perhaps even unknowingly. That’s the thing, a lot of these things that trigger that blast of dopamine in the brain aren’t even necessarily conscious decisions. For instance:

Video games are cleverly engineered to trigger that reward zone in your mind to keep you sedated and playing. It may not seem like much, but little things like easily achieved goals within levels or the trophy or achievement models are designed to manipulate your brain into releasing dopamine. Especially the low-hanging fruit examples of those things.

But if they’re doing that to you and you aren’t consciously aware of it, to what other actions or behaviors are they getting you addicted?

Does your brain reward you for scrubbing out newbies in your multiplayer free-for-all first person shooter? The adrenaline and heightened senses necessary to survive in that virtual environment isn’t all that different, if at all, from those actual situations when adrenaline and sharpened senses are necessary to actually survive. So by killing your friends, or the random people in the melee that is most of those arenas, your brain rewards you for surviving.

Couple an involuntary biological rewards system more powerful than a gamer score with relative anonymity that online gaming provides, and you have another potential source for addictive behavior. Because of the anonymity afforded by the internet, you can act like an utter ass and suffer no external consequence. And people nearly universally enjoy getting away with things. Talk about the brain rewarding itself.

The games have nothing to do with this other than provide the arena in which this behavior is practiced. This one is entirely up to the individual: how someone acts in the free-for-all environment on line is a reflection of who they are; but even more disturbing is that this is a reflection of who they are as an addict. They are getting away with treating others like garbage, with spewing foul bile. They reward themselves with a blast of dopamine when they treat people poorly. They’ve become addicted to treating people like crap.

I think this is scary because those same people are out in society as well. Now they’re mingling with people that are for all intents and purposes the very same as those they were recently targeting. Some may even be the same people. How could you know? Those online gaming forums provide anonymity, so you could very well be interacting with the same people who just cursed you out online.

The brain doesn’t care what it needs to trigger that fix of dopamine, so if you’ve become addicted to treating people poorly online, do you think that’ll stop whenever you go out in public? Of course the answer is no. I quit smoking a year ago, and I still occasionally want a cigarette. I know a drag will make me cough, make me lightheaded and dizzy, and probably leave me nauseated; but every once in a while, I still want a smoke. If something like that can keep my brain hostage for more than a year, even when not consistently engaging in that behavior, what is the likelihood that you’ll be able to keep your addiction to hate and treating people poorly under control when you’ve consistently indulged that craving?

The likelihood is nil. You won’t keep that behavior under control.  Because it controls you.

How else would you explain the reaction to Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, or Brianna Wu (to name some of the more prominent ones)? These women haven’t done anything even remotely deserving of the backlash they’ve faced, and yet… They’ve had to deal with some superhuman levels of abuse. Those who attack Sarkeesian attempt to justify it by claiming she didn’t cite someone else’s work. Those that targeted Zoe Quinn and later Brianna Wu attempted to justify it by claiming ethics in journalism. Are these excuses any better than those used by a common, garden-variety addict?

No. They’re not.

Those rational among us that have heard of GamerGate have been asking the question what makes people act this way?  What can lead to this level of man’s inhumanity toward man?  Take a junkie’s fix from him and you’ll see quick, fast, and in a hurry.

It’s not even limited to the subject of video games. Take a good long, hard, objective look at society. How do people treat each other in society? I’m friends with someone on the receiving end of some seriously disgusting abuse. This is the type of abuse that makes me wonder if the abusers have any ounce of humanity left in them. They’ve brutally, maliciously lied and engaged in campaigns against my friend and her family. Simple disagreement isn’t enough to account for this sort of behavior; and after watching the way the “gamers” have gone after Sarkeesian, Quinn, and Wu I realized my friend is dealing with the same venomous reaction. She’s not dealing with rational human beings, she’s dealing with hate junkies in search of a fix.

Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which. –George Orwell, Animal Farm

Which is where I came in: I’m not sympathetic to these types of people. Just as I trained myself to need the nicotine I was once addicted to by consistently indulging myself in a cigarette, these people have trained themselves to need to hate. It’s indiscriminate, as evidenced by the GamerGate nonsense: it doesn’t matter who the target is, the important thing is getting that fix. In my friend’s case, it doesn’t matter to her antagonists what the truth is. They just have to hate, because not hating leads to withdrawal. You don’t get a pass because this hate addiction is a choice you’ve made and indulged in.

This Hate Addiction isn’t a disease; you have the ability to make the decision to not act like an asshole today. And again tomorrow. There’s a reason the twelve-step programs emphasize the one-day-at-a-time approach. Quitting smoking was hard, not just because of the physical need for nicotine; I also have to overcome the psychological need for it as well. Every day. One day at a time. It’s the same thing for you who are indulging your need to hate; whatever psychological reasons there may be for you act the way you do… Well, you’ll have to overcome those too.

I never was in the Video Games Cause Violence Camp because I am a staunch believer in the faith that mankind has free will.

What will you choose to do with your life today? How do you want to live? Do you want to continue to live with your brain rewarding your hatred?

I know what my answer to that question is.

Bear Creek Trail Fall Colors II

Continuing with the photos I took last week along Bear Creek Trail. We consider ourselves fortunate to have the opportunity to live in this part of the Denver metro area where we are close to nature. We can walk along here and pretend that we’re away from the city. I like taking pictures in the fall when things are colorful in a way that they aren’t during the rest of the year.

It’s almost as if nature is apologizing before the fact that it will soon paint with a monochromatic palette.

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Bear Creek Trail Fall Colors I

The weather’s cooled down enough now that when I get home from work, my wife and I walk a few miles together in the evening along Bear Creek Trail. This year, the colors seem subdued, as if they went from green to dead without that vibrant, awesome colorful phase between them. But there were still enough pretty colors to get a few shots last week.

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Photogenic Kitty V

I’m not really as obsessed with the cat as it probably appears (no, really). Or as much as my wife says I am, either. But I think Rose is a really pretty cat, and she strikes great poses. And sometimes, I can catch her being silly:

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A few pictures from March.  We drove to Ouray for a weekend for our ‘honeymoon’ and I took some photos of the mountains while we were over there.