Experience Machine Survey

This semester I've added a new component to my class on the good life and the meaning of life: an attempt to discover the public's intuitions on 10-20 cases and thought experiments that drive philosophers' views in both areas.  In another month, I'll be putting the whole survey online.  But for the moment, your comments are welcome on the way we've formulated questions (2), (3), and (4). If you think the formulation is problematic in any way, pray tell.

The first question is based on Robert Nozick's famous Experience Machine thought experiment.
(2) Suppose there were an experience machine that could stimulate your brain so that you felt as if you were living any life you wanted.  You could choose whatever you wanted--the ideal life of a surgeon, an entrepreneur, an actor--whatever.  Brilliant and trustworthy scientists could program the machine to stimulate your brain so it seemed as if you were living that life.  After choosing to plug in, your body would wind up floating in a tank, but you would feel as if you were living just the life you wanted. You wouldn't remember plugging in--it would just feel as if life continued, only better.

Would you choose to plug in to the Experience Machine?  YES   NO
Comments about that formulation most welcome.

The next question is inspired by a paper by Felipe De Brigard.  The general idea is to compare people's willingness to plug in to secure happiness (the original scenario), with their willingness to unplug to secure happiness.  People are asked to believe they are already living a virtual life -- they plugged in many years ago, and their memory of doing so was erased.  Here's the way we've formulated this question--
(3)  Guess what?  You actually were given the choice in question (2) 10 years ago. You've been plugged in to the Experience Machine for all these years.  You chose an option called "normal life," which is why things haven't gone quite perfectly for you. In fact, you are plugged in right now. You are not looking at a real computer screen, but only experiencing an illusion generated by the Experience Machine. Brilliant life-forecasting scientists can tell you if your dreams will be fulfilled if you decide to unplug from the Experience Machine and start living a real life.  Suppose your dream is _______ (imagine the blank filled according to your personal dreams).  The scientists tell you that your dreams will be fulfilled if you unplug.
Would you choose to unplug from the Experience Machine?  YES   NO
The question has to say something about the real world people will be returning to and we've done that differently than De Brigard does.  In one version, he simply said life in the real world would be very different from life in the experience machine.  In another version, people were told they would get to be an artist living in Monaco. We've created a version that's more the mirror image of the original.  Like in the original thought experiment, the choice to change (now from the Experience Machine to reality) gives you the life of your dreams.

De Brigard found that people are as reluctant to leave the Experience Machine as they are to plug into it. He attributes that to "status quo bias."  That's what's making them refuse to unplug in the second scenario and refuse to plug in to begin with.  So much for Nozick's view that we want contact with reality, he thinks.

But I think our question is fairer, since it preserves the temptation to switch that was part of the original thought experiment.  Without that, status quo bias is being elicited more strongly in the second scenario. It's not fair, then, to reason that if it's behind people's reactions to the second scenario, it's also behind their reaction to the first.

Suppose people say NO to both questions.  Perhaps status quo bias is the reason, and Nozick was wrong about our desire for contact with reality. But there's another possibility.  Status quo bias could swamp people's reactions.  They just want life to go on as usual. They're change averse.  It's possible that they also do want contact with reality.  Do they?  Perhaps we can find out by offering a choice between two highly novel options, so there's no possibility of going on as usual.  That's the idea behind this choice--
(4) You've always wanted to go to Antarctica, and a wealthy benefactor has decided to pay for the $20,000 super-deluxe trip. At the last minute, the donor offers you a choice between the best real trip to Antarctica that money can buy, and plugging into the Experience Machine for an even more flawless trip.  It's all the same to the donor, as the cost to her is $20,000 either way.  She advises you that on the real trip, there are possible negatives that cannot be controlled.  You will take a ship from Peru to Antarctica, possibly experiencing sea swells. If you plug in to the Experience Machine, it will seem as if you are having a perfect trip. There will be no sea swells.  If you plug in, trustworthy scientists will unplug you at the end of the trip.  They will also erase the memory that you plugged in and it will seem to you as if you remember a real -- and perfect -- trip.

Would you choose the real trip or plug into the Experience Machine?  REAL    PLUG IN
Granted, if people think they start off in the real world, and they choose REAL here, they're preserving the status quo in some sense.  But not in an experiential sense.   So it seems to me this ought to reduce the role of status quo bias.  A good showing for REAL will at least strongly suggest that Nozick was right, and people do desire contact with reality.

That's what I'm thinking, anyway. Your thoughts about it welcome.


High Holy Days

The Jewish high holy days created an intriguing juxtaposition for me last weekend. On Saturday I gave a talk at a freethought conference and on Sunday went to Rosh Hashanah services with my kids. What a lovely opportunity for "compare and contrast"! (And there will be more this week--Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is on Tuesday.)

The #1 theme of a sermon at a liberal Jewish temple is (I would say) self-improvement.  The rabbi is someone who exhorts you to get your priorities straight, to live a better life. We are to change our focus. We care too much about material things and money-making. We ought to concentrate on our families and on what really matters.  If any one theme comes up most often, it looks to me like it's the value of the sabbath--how we ought to slow down weekly, look inward, enjoy family and friends, turn off the computer.  After that, there's the theme of caring for the world as a whole--we should do more for the poor, for the environment, about injustice. 

Why does the rabbi get to exhort us all in this way?  Who is he or she to say how we should live?  Of course, the official answer is that the rabbi knows what God wants from us.  But it's not actually crucial--we can believe that to varying degrees or even not at all. The God business establishes the practice of having wise people exhort others to live better lives, but what really sustains it, I suspect, is that people like being exhorted to live better lives. We (and I include myself here) like the periodic experience of being asked to assess how life is going, reconsider priorities, make resolutions, especially if the reassessment takes place in a beautiful setting, with evocative music, and so on. 

At the atheist meetings I've been to a few times (as an invited speaker) there are some of the same elements--music, food, kids being educated, charity--but a noticeable absence of exhortation.  Perhaps I haven't visited enough times to make a generalization, but nobody gets up and tells everyone else they're too materialistic, or that they spend too much time at the computer. Nobody tells everyone else to spend more time with friends and family, or reading, or experiencing nature. Maybe some topics in the program implicitly transmit that message.  If a speaker talks about an environmental topic, attention gets shifted from shopping to the environment. But there isn't very much of the theme of self-evaluation and becoming better people.

There really couldn't be, because it's not easy for one person to get granted the exhorting role.  That can transpire despite a fair amount of godlessness (as there is in a liberal Jewish congregation), but if everyone's godless, and adamantly so, it's hard to suppress the question "Why should you exhort us?" I suppose there could be godless preachers.  Nietzsche wrote in a preaching style, literally commanding people to do this and do that.  (See the Gay Science for what must be the world's best atheist sermonizing.) But it's hard to imagine a Nietzsche figure preaching at a freethought meeting.  Exhortation to live a better life is "for them, not for us" ... I think that's pretty much the feeling.

I have no empirical evidence that it benefits people to be involved in holidays and rituals of self-examination, but I think it does benefit me, and I enjoy it!


Better to have existed than not at all?

A reader sent me the following question about eating "happy cows". I will not be able to get to this until tomorrow or Wednesday, but thought others might like to discuss in the interim.
If I may, I was wondering if I could get your take on a common objection concerning the raising of humanely treated animals, that the alternative is non-existence, and it's better for them to exist than to never have existed. Jeff McMahan says this claim is incoherent ("Eating animals the nice way"), but I'm struggling to understand why.
Suppose the cow Betty has experienced 100 net units of happiness, and one claims it is better for Betty to exist than to never have existed: because, if Betty never existed, she wouldn't have experienced any units of happiness at all. Thus the claim makes a comparison between existent Betty and non-existent Betty, claiming that the latter would have been worse off. Does the incoherency arise because, to say that non-existent Betty would have been worse off, we must assume that she would have somehow been an existing, non-existent individual who failed to experience any units of happiness?
-- Spencer Lo
My answer--

OK, so there's a defense of benign carnivorism that says we are helping Betty (taking her from worse to better) by creating her, giving her a nice life, and then painlessly killing her and eating her. We'd actually be harming Betty if we kept her in the hell of non-existence, so to speak, and didn't let her into the actual world.

I think McMahan is saying* all that's sheer nonsense.  To help Betty, she's got to already exist.  If a being doesn't exist, we can't help her, can't make her go from a worse condition to a better condition. Likewise, we can't harm someone by creating her--she doesn't go from better to worse by coming into existence (even if her life will be full of pain).  Bottom line--we should reject all the helping and harming talk. 

This is very signficant, as we tend to think there are rather strong duties to help and even stronger duties not to harm.  So if we were helping animals by creating them, treating them nicely, and then eating them, that would create a pretty strong case for doing so. If we were harming animals by keeping them out of existence, that would create a pretty strong case for getting busy and breeding more of them.  So jettisoning all the helping/harming talk is a major step.

Now, even if we take that step, says McMahan, we're still left with some reason to keep breeding animals, treating them nicely, and eating them. That's because even if we don't help Betty by creating her, we can still say we do something good, assuming there will be a lot more happiness than misery in her life.  In fact, we do something good for Betty, since she's the one who will enjoy that relatively happy life.  We don't help her by creating her; we simply do something good, and it happens to be good that Betty enjoys.  As McMahan says (p. 3) "Since benign carnivorism by definition aims to cause animals to exist with lives that are good -- in which the good elements outweigh the bad -- it is plausible to say that the practice is good for the animals it causes to exist, even if the ultimate aim is to make them available for human consumption." 

Using terminology developed by Derek Parfit, McMahan later in the article says that our reasons to create animals are "impersonal" (p. 6). That is to say, they are not helping/harming type reasons, but just "doing good" type reasons. There's no victim if we don't create happy animals, and no beneficiary, in the sense of someone who winds up better off, if we do create happy animals. That then leads to the crux of the matter.  He says our reasons for benign carnivorism consist in "the human interest in eating meat, and whatever impersonal reasons one might have to cause animals to exist with lives that would be good for them."  He then says "In general, we assign little or no weight to impersonal reasons to cause individuals to exist." (p. 6)  We don't think we need to get to work and make more babies, for example, if we prefer to be childless. It's fair to say we'd be "doing good" if we made more people, but that doesn't make much of a case for making more people. It makes even less of a case for making more animals, since animals have less good in their lives (on McMahan's view).

My reaction to this: it's actually a major mystery why "we assign little or no weight to impersonal reasons to cause individuals to exist," so this seems like a very shaky way to respond to someone defending benign carnivorism.  Peter Singer doesn't respond to the argument this way, as he's a "total utilitarian" and does assign weight to these impersonal reasons. His very complicated discussion of this in Practical Ethics might be the thing to read next. 

Hope that was helpful!

* Article is HERE.


Feminine Faces of Freethought

I was thinking about live-blogging or live-tweeting yesterday's conference, but I'm actually not capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time--so to speak.  No need for a complete rundown, as there will be video of the whole conference soon, I hear. This is going to be mostly reactions to panels and talks, not summaries.

First up was a panel on secular parenting, featuring Jamye Carr, Anne Crumpacker, and Noelle George. Much sensible advise was dispensed, including the advice to encourage kids to ask questions and consult experts.  One issue several people discussed was the religious babysitter or relative. What do you do when Grandma starts witnessing to the kids?  Prohibit that, the panelists all seemed to agree.

I had an experience with my children a long time ago that makes me think it can sometimes be better to allow children to have more diverse influences. (I talked about this in a little essay I wrote for Free Inquiry.) My twins learned that people die one day when they were age three, and they found the news extremely upsetting. They were inconsolable -- and I mean really distraught. It so happens we left them with a babysitter that night, and they asked the babysitter what happens when we die.  She reassured them that we go to heaven, and they were vastly happier the next morning. The upsetness about death lasted for the next six months, and just being able to talk about the mere possibility that we survive in an afterlife was helpful.

Next up--well, me, talking about Alex Rosenberg's book The Atheist's Guide to Life, and the problem of intentionality (or "aboutness"), and meaning in life, and ... a lot of other stuff.  The powerpoint is here, if you're interested. I started my talk with a short prelude about solidarity vs. agreement. (You can have solidarity with people you disagree with ... etc. etc.)  I was a bit worried ahead of time that a philosophy of mind-heavy talk might not go over well, but I was delighted with all the discussion afterwards. Terrific, lively, lots of fun.

After lunch--at the Cosmic Cafe, an excellent vegetarian eatery!--there was a panel called "What Atheist Women Really Want."  I enjoyed Elyse Anders, a snappy speaker with very pink hair from Skepchick.  Bridget Gaudette of Secular Women is one of these people who keeps saying "I'm not a very good speaker" while being a very good speaker.  She's funny!

Next up, Noelle George, the operations manager for Foundation Beyond Belief,  talking on "Fifty Shades of Feminism."  I thought this was a terrific title, because there are many forms of feminism, but Noelle seemed to think not. Feminism is just one thing, she said: advocating equal rights for all genders (though feminists can advocate in different styles).  I beg to disagree here. There are liberal feminists, "difference" feminists, radical separatist feminists, Marxist feminists, ecofeminists--to name a few.  These are people with significantly different beliefs and goals.  A primer on these differences would be most helpful to address a very wacky belief that's taken hold in the atheosphere--the belief that secular women agitating for harassment codes are "radical feminists" or (what a word--who invented this, Rush Limbaugh?) "radfems". But no. What these women want is compatible with just about every form of feminism that exists--it's not the least bit specific to "radical feminism."

Noelle said we have a gender problem in the secular community and who could disagree, watching online craziness in the last year. I don't disagree! On the other hand, how big is the problem out in the real world? She said (roughly) "the numbers show we have a problem." 0f those who complain of being harmed, 56% are women.  This study is what she was referring to, I think, but it says two things, actually.  It says that 14.4% of women (but 11.4% overall) have "felt unwelcome, discriminated against, or harmed in the secular movement."  That's not a huge disparity. And then it says 55% of women (compared to 35% overall) have had "problems within the group."  A bigger disparity. I take it these problems are milder than feeling "unwelcome, discriminated or harmed."  I'm not 100% sure how we're supposed to interpret the last figure but certainly the bigger number is scarier. I'm pressing the question only because one woman, after the talk, expressed dismay, and said she was going to avoid national conferences.

[Note: I changed the last paragraph after pondering that study for another hour. I think my initial objection may have been based on misinterpreting the 55% statistic.]

Finally--possibly the highlight of the day--there was a diversity panel.  Being an academic philosopher, I tend to think of atheism mostly as an intellectual movement--it's all about the Dawkins's and the Harris's of this world. But the atheist movement is also a haven for all sorts of people who have actually been harmed, sometimes because of their non-conformity with religiously approved gender norms.  The people on this panel had some incredibly moving stories to tell. One in particular made me laugh and made me cry. A talk about female genital mutilation was very moving and informative.  I'm being a little vague about the personnel here as we were told some of the people on this panel were dealing with real world threats.

My daughter accompanied me to the event, which made it extra fun. It's always good for a 15 year old girl to hear the world "feminism" and she got to hear it roughly 100 times. She got some new jewelry out of the bargain too--a "surlyramic" necklace with an atom image.  All in all, a fun and interesting day.


Is Life Meaningless?

Links for my talk at Feminine Faces of Freethought.
Alex Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Life: Enjoying Life without IIlusions 
Jean Kazez, Review of Rosenberg in Free Inquiry (August/September 2012)
Leo Tolstoy, A Confession 
Harry Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love 
Susan Wolf, Meaning in Life and Why it Matters 
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – look up Intentionality; Causal theories of mental content
Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

Repudiate, Excoriate, Disassociate

A quick word about this.  PZ Myers' frustration is understandable, and that's a beautifully written rant, but Ron Lindsay did repudiate the savages.  He said "no one wants them in the movement."  That's repudiating; it's just not excoriating.  Must we excoriate?  I'm not so sure, as my impression is that the savages love the attention. They positively thrive on being excoriated. My view is that disassociation is much more important that excoriation.  I made that point in a comment at Talking Philosophy last week, so I'll just quote myself--
I think most hardcore bullies are not going to cease and desist because people disapprove of them. They see themselves as outlaws, so in fact the more people disapprove, the more fun they have being bad boys & girls. So I think it would make sense to think about other ways of responding. One issue, which is kind of tricky, is complicity and enabling. Many people go on talking to bullies even though they see them as bullies. I think people are often actually grateful to have a few sluggers on their ideological team–though wouldn’t admit it, if asked. The bully knows this, and so feels appreciated, though people may not express their appreciation openly. The continued interaction makes the bully feel like a respectable member of “the community” (whatever that might be). So one way of attacking the problem is for non-bullies to think more about who they consort with.
Eject bullies from your own “community”, don’t join communities that include bullies, don’t hang out with bullies, even when they’re off duty. Etc. Of course, you have to be aware of who’s a bully in the first place–which means no burying your head in the sand. I think this bully prevention strategy is actually more likely to stop bullying than highminded lectures about civility. As I say, bullies are outlaws–they positively enjoy their incivility and don’t care what others think. They do like attention and interaction, though. Take that away from them, and they really might disappear.
So here's my prescription:
  1. If you are one of the savages yourself, take some time out for deep reflection. Is this really the way you want to spend your time?  Have you become the person you want to be?  Think about it.
  2. If you participate in a forum in which significant bullying takes place, get out now.  You may only be functioning as an audience or sounding board for the bad actors, but your attention encourages them.  If you go further and assist--for example, by delivering links, screen caps, addresses, and the like--then shame on you.  
  3. If you interact with and link to people who are involved in a forum where significant bullying takes place, then stop.  Your interactions send a clear message to bullies that they're not going to lose their seat at the table by being bullies, they're not going to lose the respect of respectable outsiders. Your attention is enabling bullies, even if you're not an active participant. 
As you can see, there are no examples in this post, and I'm going to have a strict policy of no examples in the comments.  Warning: I'll probably close comments at the end of the day, as I just can't get into discussions that start in September and go on until December.  I have these issues on my mind today, and with any luck I'll have other things on my mind tomorrow.

If you want to comment please focus on directly relevant, general issues like this --
  • Am I right that disassociation is the key, not so much repudiation or excoriation?
  • Are we complicit if we listen to, interact with, and link to people who are involved in a high-bullying website?
  • What are the limits?  Say that A is a savage, B directly assists A, C links to and respectfully interacts with B. Now take D, who pals around with C, and E ...  It cannot make sense to continue this chain indefinitely, calling everyone with any connection to A, however remote, an enabler?  My prescription limits responsibility to A, B, and C. Is this a principled limit?



One of the reasons I'm looking forward to the "Feminine Faces of Freethought" conference on Saturday is that for once, I'm (presumably) going to be sitting in a room with women who are happy to make common cause with other women. Ever since I organized a talk on feminism at my junior high school, when I was 13 years old, I've been happy to do that.

Some women--apparently a non-negligible number in the "freethought" community--don't affiliate with other women in that way. At a recent meeting, Harriet Hall wore a T-shirt that said, in part, "I'm a skeptic, not a skepchick, not a 'woman skeptic', just a skeptic." In a recent blog post, Sara Mayhew applauds her--
The message of Dr. Hall’s shirt resonates with me because it addresses the most important thing to me about feminism and equality; that you can’t make assumptions about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences based on my gender. I don’t consider myself part of a subset of skeptics because I’m a woman. What I want is to be viewed as a human individual. My experiences aren’t going to be the same as yours just because we share the same gender.
Mayhew's post drew a furious response from a few feminists. That's too bad, because the fury makes you want to rush to Mayhew's defense, as if her statement were completely innocent. Surely it isn't.

Imagine a gay man wearing a T-shirt that says "I am not a gay skeptic, just a skeptic" or one who writes the equivalent of Mayhew's paragraph:  "I don't consider myself part of a subset of skeptics because I'm gay. What I want is to be viewed as a human individual."   Gay people are in fact a disadvantaged minority.  Gay people do have a set of common problems. If you refuse to identify yourself as a member of that minority, you do a little to make that group, and their undeniable disdvantages, invisible. Sure, it's understandable to want to be viewed as a human individual, but if you live in a world where gay people are discriminated against, as a group, then there's good reason for gay people to make common cause with each other.

Same goes for a black skeptic (or black philosopher, or black lawyer ... or whatever) who insists "I don't consider myself part of a subset of skeptics because I'm black. What I want is to be viewed as a human individual."  Sure, you want that. It would be great for each of us to be viewed as a human individual, if nobody "saw" race, gender, sexual preference, disability, etc. But for the time being, black people are a disadvantaged subgroup.  Blacks who say "I am just a human individual" now are letting down other members of that group, since all benefit when the group advocates for itself collectively.

Just like blacks share problems and gay people do, of course women do as well. Obviously women, as women, don't have the very same experiences.   But it would make sense if we at least shared dismay that there's never been a female US president, that all of the four horsemen of new atheism are men, that women are more likely than men to be raped and sexually harassed, that women in some countries can't vote or move around freely. Beyond that, it would make sense to take an interest in finding solutions to these problems.  Being female and disassociating from other women is like being black and disassociating from blacks, or being gay and disassociating from gays--all three reveal a lack of solidarity, and solidarity (when you're in fact a member of a disadvantaged group) is a virtue.


It was a happy cow

I adore Nicholas Kristof, and love the way he's taken up the cause of animals, but his column today does make me wonder if he's ready to think carefully about these things.  The howlers (as English philosophers used to say) are so obvious they're almost funny.

Kristof has a friend named Bob who raises dairy cows in relatively humane conditions, giving them names and calling them his "girls".  What happens, though, when they grow old?  Kristof tells a story about one of Bob's favorite cows, Jolly, that's supposed to reassure us --
When Jolly grew old and unproductive, he traded her to a small family farm in exchange for a ham so she could live out her retirement with dignity.
If only I were teaching Animal Rights this semester, I could have the fun of asking my students what's odd about that sentence.  (Whisper:  the ham, what about the HAM?)

The last paragraph is just as unreflective--
The next time you drink an Organic Valley glass of milk, it may have come from one of Bob's cows. If so, you can bet it was a happy cow. And it has a name.
IT has a name?  Either you can urge people to support farms with named cows or you can refuse to use personal pronouns for animals, but surely you can't do both!  (Aside: I'm mighty puzzled by the convention that animals are to be called "it". Aren't there very plainly male and female animals?)

OK, minor points.  Kristof is a good guy trying to support more humane methods of farming. I applaud him for that.  Gary Francione, predictably enough, doesn't. Here's Prof. Francione excoriating Kristof for his wrong-headed concern.
For Kristof and other welfarists, and this includes just about every large “animal protection” organization in this country, animals are things. They are not nonhuman persons. They are not members of the moral community. It is fine to exploit them as long as we torture them less than they would be tortured in an alternative situation; as long as we send them to slaughter with a name.
Well, that's right. Kristof does not think animals are persons, and that's probably because (if he thinks it through) he would reject the theory that sentience is sufficient for personhood.  It doesn't follow that animals are mere things or that they don't matter at all. They just don't matter in exactly the same way that persons like us matter.

Even if they matter in some intermediate, "somewhere between person and thing" way, there's still the question how we can possibly be justified in taking an animal's life, just for the pleasure we get from eating animal products.  The more I think about that question, the less I find it has any easy answer.   It's one thing if the pleasure in question is a small increment--like the difference between (say) Godiva chocolate and Hershey's. It's another if the difference is quite large--like the difference between eating in a school cafeteria and in a great restaurant.  Sad fact: I think for many people, a vegan diet would be like a lifetime of eating in the cafeteria. 

For someone like Francione, Kristof is a major enemy. He makes it seem like you can reconcile ethics with eating animals, just so long as you make enough humane reforms. This essay from Slate, sent to me by a reader (thank you!), makes clear how intense the fight is between abolitionists and other kinds of animal advocates.
Take, for instance, this year’s annual Animal Rights National Conference, which was held in Alexandria, Va., last month. After an abolitionist petition to ban HSUS from the conference failed, abolitionists tried sponsoring an independent seminar in protest of HSUS’s involvement. The hotel where the conference took place then attempted to shut down the abolitionists’ competing seminar (apparently at the main conference organizers’ behest). It’s this dust-up—not any of the myriad practical strategies of reform discussed during the four-day conference—that has earned the bulk of the attention in animal rights circles.
The rest of the article is well worth reading.


Misogyny and the Meaning of Life

Next week at the Feminine Faces of Freethought conference in Dallas I'm going to be talking about the meaning of life. Specifically, I'll be talking about an argument in Alex Rosenberg's book The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions -- to the effect that life is totally meaningless.

But first I plan on saying just a bit about the misogyny wars that have been raging lately in the atheosphere.  The question bouncing around in my head is: why?  Why so much friction about so little -- since the dispute is about relatively small things like how to treat each other at conventions?  I have a little theory about that.  Hope to see you at the conference!

P.S. This was longer as of 5 seconds ago, but thought better of it. If you subscribe, maybe you got the longer thing by email. When all is said and done, all that talk just repulses me, and I didn't want it at my blog.