Sunday, June 24, 2007

Lots of goodies in the news this week...

Top of the list has to go to a zdnet report on the US Homeland Security department with the trojan ridden computers.

The man in charge of IT security for the US Homeland Security department may lose his job after the revelations that his department’s IT systems have misconfigured firewalls, suspicious botnet activity, trojans and virus infections.

In response to reports of persistent cybersecurity flaws at the Department of Homeland Security, a top congressional Democrat on Wednesday questioned whether the agency's chief information officer deserves to keep his job.

Nah, they'll promote the incompetent swat. That's what they do in the public service. Kick them upstairs to get them out of harm's way without provoking the union to a revolt.

Some poor old Aussie spreader of good cheer will serve 15 months in chokey in the U.S. after having been extradited from Oz to LaLaLand for his leading role in the interweb piracy website drinkordie, which was shut down by U.S. Customs and Interference. Poor bastard. Total sentence - 51 months, time already served means he'll be out in time for next year's Melbourne Cup. The silly prat boasted he'd never get caught. PROTIP: Hew; in order not to get caught, you might consider not doing crime.

Finally, the one that is closest to my heart:

This from Reuters:

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Putting feelings into words makes sadness and anger less intense, U.S. brain researchers said on Wednesday, in a finding that explains why talking to a therapist -- or even a sympathetic bartender -- often makes people feel better.

I have a massive bent against the destruction of our language at the hands of people either too inept, too lazy or just too uneducated to be considered responsible users of words.

The reason being; if you deprive a person of language, the means to communicate, you remove from them the very essence of what it is to be human.

Misusing the language to the extent it reduces one's own ability to express thoughts and feelings has exactly the same effect. It increases frustration, accentuates isolation and reduces one's efficacy for life in a society which functions because of its use of language.

This cold hard fact is borne out even the Bible! At the fabled Tower of Babel. To thwart the plans of the fabled people to build a tower to an even more fabled Heaven, the fabled god "confused their language."

By not having and appreciating an adequate grasp of language and how fundamental it is on every aspect of our lives, we reduce our understanding of ourselves and each other.

The report goes on...

They said talking about negative feelings activates a part of the brain responsible for impulse control.

"This region of the brain seems to be involved in putting on the brakes," said University of Southern California Los Angeles researcher Matthew Lieberman, whose study appears in the journal Psychological Science.

Putting this into the context of the Virginia Tech shootings and the fact we have since discovered that Cho Seung Hui was an isolate - according to reports quoting people who knew the guy - one might start to realise that communication is fundamental to a healthy society. And that means not just watching tv or getting news from the internet, it means communicating - expressing oneself.

The better a person can communicate their thoughts and feelings to people around them, the better that person will be able to function both as an individual and as part of a broader group.

Erode the means of interaction and you diminish the person. See "1984" for an up to date list of un-words. It's double plus good.

"I think we all believe that by talking about our feelings, we reach deep new insights, and that understanding is what transforms us,"

"It's not just the deep thoughts," (Lieberman) said. "It's something about the way we are built."


Now, this report was not specifically about humans and language, how language helps us identify our own thoughts and feelings as well as those of the people around us, it was a report on the findings of a study conducted on 18 women and 12 men.

What they found is that when people attached a word like angry to an angry-looking face, the response in the amygdala portion of the brain that handles fear, panic and other strong emotions decreased.

I've been trying to explain this to a number of my younger friends that emotions do respond to intellect, rather than the other way around, and thinking improves with practice. Thinking, as distinct from feeling, is generally done in our minds using words. Continual improvement in skill at using language facilitates better understanding, comprehension and communication. It makes us more "human".

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