I am not cut out to evangelize in person

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 2:39 AM

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I've been giving myself something of a break from my favorite blogs recently; every damn time we try to have a conversation about feminism, social science or society, a mass of semi-literate (as evidenced by the caliber of thought and by the inability to make a sentence) assholes descend on those blogs to demand that their ignorance is just as good as anyone else's actual learning.

They are, in fact, quite proud of their ignorance, and resent any attempt to provide them with information. And perhaps I have something to laugh at myself about here: I provide research studies, expecting them to recognize the work which goes into the process and the rigor associated with that work. That is a little unrealistic, I think, but I keep expecting them to care that there is something they do not know.

I realize this isn't an isolated phenomenon, since any subject which requires nuance or learning runs smack into the wall which is our apparent collective hatred of thinking here in the US. These sorts of things do, however, happen more often with those three topics.

In fact, were I to draw a Venn diagram of these subjects, I'd be willing to bet that by frequency, the intersection receives the most concentrated stupidity, with feminism moderately to strongly correlated with a large bit of that frequency.

This is where I have to raise my hand and say that by the US definition, I am an intellectual snob. I am not a snob because I want to be better than everyone (the most common explanation for snobbery). I could give a shit except that I am well rated, professionally, and that my colleagues, friends and lovers think well of me.

And why could I give a shit? If there's anything teaching has taught me, it's that I cannot actually make anyone care and that I cannot expect people to see me like I do. Sometimes, this is a good thing because it helps me see my own errors.

Sometimes, I wish to beat my head against a wall: I can't compete with an onslaught of bad educational experiences and twelve odd years of being told to value not thinking about life, not being curious and not being prepared. I can't compete with feelings of inferiority, or smug dismissal, or the allocation of all studies of humans to useless information.

I think this is a point a lot of people get to: when you've worked tremendously hard to learn something and no one else gives a shit, it stings. It also stings when they believe they're sincere, despite doing everything in their power to be disingenuous.

Perhaps that is the most irritating part. It is easy to get more and more cynical about your average person, and ascribe to them a brain-melting stupid which must be avoided to retain one's sanity. It comes back to the gulf education creates by virtue of demanding introspection and the lessening of the ego (to learn, you have to be wrong), and the urge to be similar. I crave conversations with people who share my knowledge, if for nothing else than the ability to have a conversation without the need to pull out a white board and explain the simplest of concepts so that I can start to have an interesting conversation with the person I am talking to. I also crave these conversations because I want to learn, to be comforted from the daily grind of all the ways I notice I am different than others, and the failures which introspection has a lovely habit of reminding me of.

In a factual sense, I'm on my way to belonging to the three percent of the nation which has a doctorate: 158,558 persons from 2009-2010. I'm also earning advanced degrees in multiple fields, which is a considerably narrower sliver of that population. Professionally speaking, it's a little lonely out there.

These are selfish desires, but at least I can have them with the idea that I contribute in a way which is a little unique. Really, that's much of what makes crushing debt, a ridiculous work load and being overworked and underpaid bearable : I'm planning on making the world a little better place.

It is, in my biased opinion, less selfish than the refusal to learn.

Anti-Forensics and the Case for Studying People

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 4:23 PM

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I have IRL friends who are most kind to me, in terms of sending really fascinating articles over messenger. One of them, a CS security specialist, sends me an article on security which discuss the need for statistical analysis of the individuals involved in computer crime and for techniques which encompass not just the cordoning off of the computer/s involved, but the ability to formulate narratives of crime and interrogate witnesses as a tool for understanding where to look.

I was surprised to find out, considering the heavy statistical content of models for network and demand analysis, that computer scientists at my university are not required to take any statistics. In fact, while they are required to take conventional math courses through discrete math and perform proofs, they do not necessarily have to model using statistics, either.

This rather blows my mind, considering the utility of statistics to model diverse systems in which (as with all human behavior) the outcome is not fully known. Some of the algorithms with which I am familiar, like TidalTrust and eigentrust, use statistical methods for scaling potential behavior between pairs in a network, as a way of looking at the dynamics between aggregate groups online, where the users involved have little way of knowing each other and make decisions about trust.

Obviously, choosing to trust someone (like, for instance, choosing to make an exception in your computer's firewall for a site) is both not 100% predictable, and very contingent on the individual user. The question of studying human behavior comes up in the conversation on dealing with users and attacks for a reason: those statistical tools offer the best chance of understanding trends once you've released software (or in this case a virus) into the wild, where programs and users interact.

In the article my friend sent me, the person writing bemoans the fact that despite extraordinarily complex tools in computer crime forensics, finding the individual hacker using only the tools of that field is close to impossible in a sophisticated attack because of the rapid development of anti-forensics tools, the broad way these tools are available and a general inability to trust the findings of the computer, alone. The actions which have yielded the best results combined something of being a detective in homicide, statistical analysis and, of course, continued development in forensics, since those tools are the baseline for gathering information.

I've heard it said often that anything which studies people can't be real science. This is as data-driven, if alternately modeled, as it's possible to be when studying something released into the wild.

And this is the kind of thing I can't wait to be doing.

On bearing the daily burden

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 3:41 PM

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When I say gift in the following, I mean pyrrhic blessing; the implication of arbitrariness and horrific cost are fully intentional.

To some degree, the legacy of religious child abuse is, for me, a gift of sorts. While it comes with the cost of daily struggles to leave the house, a million checks and balances on sanity and on maintaining a public face, it allows me a spectacularly high bar, on occasion, for dealing with misogyny. Of course, sometimes the threshold for bothering me is also pretty low, depending on how I've done in a day on my checks and balances and what I've been forced to confront by circumstance.

It also depends on the dice roll of my nightmares the night before. Since nightmares are roughly 60% of my dreams, of varying degrees of disturbing, this is a significant factor in the energy I have to invest in checks and balances and therefore on my threshold for disturbance. I've gotten to the point where a dream about being eaten alive is generally only vaguely frustrating.

When the dice roll nicely, I get a day like today. The function of all these checks and balances, and the constant introspection necessary to maintain them, gives me a little distance between myself and the thing I am responding to. When I am not called to respond to something, what I have instead is a contemplative silence.

Today, I am silent. It's not out of anger, or hurt, but out of the lack of demand, which allows me peace.

Today, I am at peace for a time, and fully content to merely understand things.

Concentration, contemplation and focus are a beautiful luxury. To be able to devote oneself to something-- a puzzle, a line of thought, the understanding of someone else's ideas-- is a way to be refreshed.

As someone who is necessarily controlled, I find this to be its own reward.