United Kingdom and Ireland Trip - Background and Overview

Normally I am not one to care about celebrating birthdays. I’m good with the “happy birthday” messages and well-wishes and calling it a day. I turned forty this year, though, and Emily decided that meant it was a milestone that should be celebrated in style. I knew she had something planned, but I never imagined the surprise in store for me. Before we delve into the trip itself, I want to provide a little bit of backstory on what made this trip such a huge thing for me, provide a little bit of information on some things I learned preparing for the trip, and provide the high level plan for the trip we mapped out. Part two of the series will start to go through the trip itself (and depending on how long that post gets it may be continued in further posts).

This is what I received in a gift bag for my birthday!

Let’s start with what makes this such a big deal for me: I have always felt a strong desire to relocate to the British Isles without having ever visited. It was, and remains, a dream. There is no rational reason for this desire, or why I have always felt as though the region seems to be calling me home (especially given that I was born and raised in the southeastern United States, so it is a completely manufactured feeling), and yet it is a feeling that has only grown stronger with time. When I pulled the little plane out of the gift bag I was expecting something like Boston, Chicago, or New York… one of the cities Emily and I have talked about wanting to explore together. I immediately teared up when I saw London on the slip of paper. This was it. I was finally getting my chance to see if the region I felt so strongly about would be able to meet the expectations I had manufactured in my imagination and dreams.

Even my wildest expectations were blown away.

Immediately I became anxious. I was anxious about being able to fit in the highlights I felt I needed to see if I only ever managed to get this one trip to the region. I was anxious about being separated from Jacob for so long and by such a distance. I was anxious about everything that needed to be considered and handled prior to the trip in case there were any issues or problems. And yet, I was ridiculously excited.

Over the next couple of weeks we formed a list of “must-see” or “must-do” items, as well as a list of “like to see” or “like to do” items. It became apparent quickly that we would need to travel light to accommodate our list, as we would need to do a lot of travel in the British Isles. We made the decision that we would travel without any checked baggage, taking only what could be carried onto a plane. There are a few items that were purchased that made this significantly easier for me to manage, given that I was going to lose a significant amount of space by carrying my camera equipment (two camera bodies and three lenses, which roughly equated to all of the available space in my “personal item” bag, limiting everything else I would need to take to be able to be packed in a single carry-on that could be stowed in the compartments above the seats on any airplane). I won’t go through all of the items in detail that made this easy to accomplish, but below are links and brief highlights for the things that really made a huge difference in making such light packing for disparate weather conditions, terrain, and needs possible:

  • Allbirds Merino Wool Shoes (link)

  • Aviator Jeans (link)

  • Icebreaker Merino Wool Clothing (link)

  • Xero Hana Canvas Shoes (link)

I elected to invest in a small selection of merino wool clothing items for three reasons: thermal-regulating properties, anti-microbial properties, and weight. This proved to be an invaluable decision, as I was able to rotate three shirts, combined with a couple of different lightweight outer layers, throughout the entire trip without issue. Allowing the shirts to simply air out overnight on a hanger was all that was required to eliminate any odors picked up over the course of the day, and the shirts never felt as though they were unclean. The Allbirds wool runners allowed me to comfortably forego socks when wearing them, meaning I could pack two pairs of wool socks for use with the Xero shoes and perform a similar “airing out” of the pair that was worn when wearing the other pair.

Two pairs of shoes was a necessity simply so that I would not find myself forced to wear shoes that had been soaked through and not had time to dry, given the likelihood of encountering rain during our travels (though this ended up not really being an issue, I did not want to risk ruining my enjoyment of the trip if it had been). As already mentioned, the Allbirds shoes were comfortable without socks, but even more important was the fact that my feet stayed comfortable whether it was hot or cold outside, meaning I knew I could count on them regardless of what the weather conditions were like each day. Similarly, using wool socks with the Xero shoes felt the same, and both pairs of shoes could be flattened pretty easily (and were very lightweight), making it much easier to pack everything into a single carry-on.

Finally, I elected to try a pair of so-called “travel” jeans for this trip, and while these were not necessary I am quite glad that I purchased them (I was looking to replace a pair of worn-out jeans regardless, so these weren’t really driven by the same thoughts as the other items above). The Aviator jeans proved to be extremely comfortable regardless of weather conditions, dried quickly if they did get wet, and and offered some extra flexibility that I was glad to have during the trip (specifically having the hidden pockets allowed me to keep Euros and British Pounds separate easily, and allowed me to keep my wallet and phone more secure when I felt the need). The jeans are so comfortable, in fact, that they have become my preferred pair for everyday wear.

Jesse at Thornbury Castle.

Planning the trip itself actually ended up being fairly simple, though figuring out the logistics of travel and accommodations took a little bit of time. Going into planning, there were a handful of absolutes that formed the basic framework of the trip: explore London, explore Edinburgh, explore some of Ireland’s natural beauty, see Anfield, and see Hamilton. We just had to figure out what it meant to us to “explore” those areas. To get started, we did what any rational traveler might do: we googled things like “London in a day,” “Edinburgh in a day,” and “must-see Scotland, Ireland.” In fairness, Emily had been to London and Dublin before, so there was also some level of experience in what might make for an enjoyable trip. The basic framework became: stay in a castle that feels like a castle, see iconic London locations, explore the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, plan a road trip in Ireland and spend a day exploring the Wild Atlantic Way, see Anfield, and watch Hamilton in London. Although it seemed like a pretty tall order for a nine day trip (might as well be seven when you count the travel on both ends), we managed to hit all of the highlights on our list while also squeezing in a few little extras. Outlined below is the general itinerary of the trip, and in the next post I’ll start with more details of each day’s adventures:

  • Monday, August 26th - Travel

  • Tuesday, August 27th - Arrive in London, explore, stay in the Bankside Hotel (Marriott Autograph Collection)

  • Wednesday, August 28th - Train to Bristol, exploration of and stay at Thornbury Castle

  • Thursday, August 29th - Train to Liverpool, tour Anfield, train to Edinburgh, stay in an apartment with a view of the castle (Airbnb)

  • Friday, August 30th - Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, hike Arthur’s Seat

  • Saturday, August 31st - Fly to Dublin and pick up rental car, Ireland road trip, stay at Connoles Cottage (Airbnb) in County Clare

  • Sunday, September 1st - The Cliffs of Moher and the Wild Atlantic Way

  • Monday, September 2nd - Drive back to Dublin, Guinness Storehouse and general Dublin exploration, fly back to London, stay in a London flat (Airbnb)

  • Tuesday, September 3rd - Explore more of London, watch Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre

  • Wednesday, September 4th - Travel

AppleTV 4K and Irresponsible Design

When upgrading my television last year, I never paused to consider not upgrading my AppleTV as well. After all, I’ve used Iterations of the device since the first one, and have always found it appealing for my needs. After this weekend’s adventure, however, I’m rethinking placing any amount of faith in Apple’s “digital hub for the home.”

While watching a video on YouTube (specifically the Falcon Heavy Test Launch, since my son is in a multi-month phase of wanting to watch the same five rocket launch videos every conceivable opportunity possible) the picture froze after an accidental press of the Siri button. No big deal, this is a public beta, I’ll just reset (FYI, reset is pressing and holding the menu and play/pause buttons simultaneously). As the device rebooted I received an error on the screen. An abnormally vague warning triangle with the URL below of “support.apple.com/appletv/restore” printed below. Ok, I thought to myself, no big deal, it’s a beta, I’ll go look at how I restore the device.

Cue eerie foreshadowing music. The instructions for the AppleTV 4K are copied below in their entirety:

If you have an Apple TV 4K

If you see a  while trying to update the software on your Apple TV, or see a black screen on your TV and flashing LED light on the front of your Apple TV, contact Apple Support.

I thought, ok, maybe it’s an over the air restore. That would make sense. I’ll call.

Spoiler alert: it is literally a ship your AppleTV to Apple to have the device restored. Not even an option of going to an Apple store and swapping the device same day. No option of restoring the device at home. Nothing.

The pure stupidity and anti-consumer nature of this situation infuriates me beyond the capacity for rational thought.

Were I a normal person who did not have a “backup, non 4K AppleTV” available, I would have absolutely no television access to anything for a minimum (absolute minimum) of the three days required to, hopefully, have the device shipped overnight, inspected and repaired within one day, and shipped back overnight. Realistically, I expect a week. Whomever signed off on shipping a device to consumers where there is absolutely no possible way to return to an operable state within a 24 hour period (which is something even the cable companies at least normally get right) except by purchasing a new device; especially when trying to become the central point of access in the home, wins the crown for piss-poor, anti-consumer design (at least for now). Not to mention remote access to HomeKit would be down for multiple days…

Apple, this is beyond unacceptable for a company that, usually at least, prides itself on quality and consumer experience.

Photo Challenge: Obsession

If you’ve never heard of Lightbox Photography Cards, it would not be surprising. The concept is fairly straightforward: pick a card from the deck and use it to inspire a photograph or photo session. Today’s theme is “obsessions.”

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I elected to use the challenge to convey multiple interests in a very small subset of images. I’ll provide a hint: eight distinct interests are conveyed in the images below. Anyone think they can identify them?

 

An Interesting non-Kentucky Bourbon

Every once in a while, a delightful surprise reminds us why labelling and categorizing things according to some component of its composition is a fundamentally flawed line of reasoning. Sometimes that reminder happens with an interpersonal interaction, sometimes it occurs when consuming media, and sometimes, when you least expect it, that reminder comes from remaining open-minded about trying different whiskeys. Sometimes that reminder comes from a not-so-delightful surprise as well. Enter Gentry, a bourbon from the Charleston, South Carolina area that should not, ever, be anywhere near your list.

Coming in around $40-50 per bottle, Gentry’s profile and character are simply not worth the expense (and not good unless your preference is bland, with a burn, that you prefer to mix, and then there are much less expensive options). This is where the reminder that labels are misleading, both literally and figuratively, comes to play, and serves as a reminder that we should always look beyond the label throughout all aspects of life. (I’ve written plenty of short snippets regarding labeling theory and the emphasis we place on the wrong things, but I may devote an upcoming article to the topic, so if you are interested, stay tuned).

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Honestly, if you want a decent “mixer” bourbon, go for Old Forrester, Bullet, Jim Beam... all are drastically better than Gentry, are all good bourbons in their own ways, and are significantly less expensive.  

The Whiskey Experiment

I embarked upon a journey through sampling assorted whiskeys over the past couple of years. From the classic Scotch Whiskys to Bourbons, from Irish Whiskeys to the recent Rye boom, and anything that looked interesting to try, I chose not to limit any categories until I understood more about what I liked and did not like. I do not proclaim to be more than an enthusiast, and still do not really know that much about whiskey in general to be completely transparent, but this has been an interesting enough experiment and journey that it warrants finally sharing some of the things I’ve learned. We’ll start with a bourbon that I am currently enjoying: the Henry McKenna Single-Barrel offering, barreled in 2009.

Before delving into this particular bourbon, a little backstory about my experiment is probably in order to better understand the probable gaps in knowledge that will be evident. My first experience with whiskey was subpar, to say the least. It seemed to be nothing more than a liquid designed to burn anything and everything it came into contact with, leaving the drinker wanting to chase it with a gallon of something smooth and flavorful to counteract the destruction. Knowing that my first foray into drinking beer was similar, and that the truth was simply that my first beer was just a bad beer for my taste preferences and likes, I expected that the millions of people who enjoy whiskey surely are not simply drinking it to simulate guzzling bleach. Naturally, this meant that I would just turn back to rum and vodka for decades before making the decision to figure out this whole whiskey thing.

Interestingly enough, a trip to the Jack Daniels Distillery rekindled my interest in exploring what it was that makes whiskey such an appealing drink to so many people, mostly because the production process was so intriguing. I decided to start with, rather obviously, a Tennessee whiskey, a scotch whisky (specifically Glenfiddich), and a bourbon whiskey (Maker’s Mark). Since then I have tried many, many different whiskeys from many different distilleries (large and small), and have generally discovered that I enjoy whiskeys that fall into one of two general categories of flavor profiles: smooth (such influences on flavor as vanilla, caramel, toffee, etc.) with a spice note, or lightly smoked/peated and smooth. As always, there are occasional exceptions that I find that do not fit in those broad categories, but that should provide a general baseline for understanding what types of whiskeys I may choose to write about.

Back to this post’s whiskey of choice: Henry McKenna SIngle-Barrel.

From the Heaven Hill Distillery’s website, this bourbon is named for “Henry McKenna, the Irish immigrant who adapted his family's whiskey recipe to work the grains he found in Kentucky. Henry McKenna is the longest aged Bottled-in-Bond available today, resting in the barrel through 40 Kentucky seasons.” I’ll copy their tasting notes at the end of this post as well, for those who just want a simple summary.

Generally speaking, I tend to prefer my whiskey chilled somewhat (as in served over a single, massive block of ice or with whiskey stones). When trying something new I also make certain I try it neat to see which way works best for me. The Henry McKenna is one I prefer chilled, which I expect to be a result of the extra little bite from being 100 proof, though it was definitely smoother than I expected when sampled neat.

As with every whiskey I have ever tried, my first sip reminded me of napalm and bleach, and had me unable to keep from grimacing slightly (on the inside). With the first sip out of the way, I was ready to see what this bourbon had to offer. Bringing the glass to my nose I paused, the subtle hints of vanilla and oak were easily detected; in fact, so delightful was the smell of this bourbon that I paused a bit longer and simply enjoyed its aromatic profile for a moment. With my next sip I was met with the warmth of honey and oak, dancing with my tastebuds like two teenagers on a hormonal high at a rave; there was a definite underlying smoothness that I knew would continue to be brought out as the liquid chilled a bit more, and a subdued bite that was almost apologetic in the way it presented itself and then disappeared.

To say this is a good bourbon is quite an understatement, though what else would you call a bourbon that hits all the marks of what you expect and want it to be? I could call this a really good bourbon, I suppose, and maybe even borderline great, but for me a great bourbon is one that makes me want to keep a stockpile of it on hand. While good, and one I would absolutely purchase again, it is not one that makes me want to find a consistent source for it. I should note that while price influences this judgement as well, and the Henry McKenna is currently very inexpensive, thereby making it a much better buy than my preferred “greats,” there is a lack of something in its flavor profile for my personal preference. As a result, although I would rank this somewhere in the range of 4.6 / 5.0, it still does not quite hit my arbitrary and subjective category of “great bourbons.”

Continuing with my dram, I enjoyed the consistently smoother profile as the ice began to melt just a little, and the liquid reached a slightly chilled state, which would therefore be my recommended method of serving/consumption. For those interested, the Peak four cube ice tray (link) is my preferred size for my single cube.

Tasting Notes

  • Color: Warm golden amber

  • Aroma: Vanilla, caramel, oak, and a light herbaceous note

  • Taste: Smooth oak, sharp spices, honey and sweetness

  • Finish: Long, sweet and spicy

Back in Black

Just in case a reader is too young to get the reference, the title is a nod to AC/DC. 

After a rather lengthy hiatus from writing, social media, and even news to a large extent, I’ve resurrected my web presence with a nice, new look, tweaked content, and even pulled in some old writings. In addition, my portfolio and branding has been updated (and looks great), and I’m looking forward to writing again.

Stay tuned. My random musings and exploration of life through creative works are back!

White American

November 9, 2016. Think about it for a moment. Recognize that this marks a day when people believing they are espousing messages of inclusivity and hope began to turn into the same people they believed they were fighting back against for a long time. Stay with me, and hopefully we can both agree on how absurd so many comments and thoughts have been over the past two days.

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way first: I am a white male. I grew up in rural Georgia. I am married and have a son. I received my undergraduate degree from Columbus State University and my Masters from the University of Cincinnati. I am the demographic many of you have decided to lump into one singular category since November 8, and the fact that you are relying on stereotypes and broad categorical labels is just as much of a problem now as any other issue present in this country. You are doing exactly what you accuse me of doing on a daily basis simply because I am not female, or a person of color, or identify as a non-heterosexual male. You are labeling, blaming, and lashing out at me without any legitimate reason, simply because I am different from you.

There are absolutely racist white morons in this country. There are issues that we face in this country that stem from the systematic oppression of others. There are plenty of things that you and I would agree emphatically on if we were to discuss things over a cup of coffee. There is one fundamental difference, however, in our views: I wholeheartedly believe that everyone is equal and that our society should be shaped in such a way as to make that clear, whereas I do not see that belief from you.

As long as we continue to separate ourselves from each other, especially through systems of classification and labels (such as African-American, white, or homosexual, just to pick some examples) we will continue to create and reinforce stereotypes and societal divisions that we will not overcome. As long as we view our neighbors, friends, coworkers, and strangers we encounter as “x label” instead of viewing them as fellow Americans, we are lost. As long as we blame others and find fault with them in some way, we have failed.

I get it. You're frightened because the person that has been elected to lead this country has shown us that he is misogynistic, authoritarian, homophobic, and bigoted. What you seem to be forgetting, however, is that judging or labeling others by any demographic is exactly the problem you feel you have been facing, and now you are responding by doing that very thing to me.

We are in this together. I'm scared of what the coming days, weeks, months, and years will bring as well. Let's start by looking at each other as fellow human beings and figuring out how we make a positive difference, from the ground up, in a country where we have (for far too long) looked for answers from the top down.

Waning Hope

I'm tired. If I discuss racism, inequality, or really any social issue, I'm ignored or told I cannot possibly know what I am talking about from my position of privilege (I am a white male). Instead I get to watch from the sidelines as wave after wave of rhetoric and uninformed drivel gets spouted at the American public as if there is no possible way any other view is worth considering, and watching the pendulum of bigotry and divisiveness swing from one side to the next.I truly hope that one day people open their eyes and understand the most basic concept required for us to be able to move toward an honestly better Society: labels and classifications of people cannot continue to exist, or we will always have issues with discrimination and inequality.As long as we reinforce the notion of self-identification with a particular group, we divide ourselves based on similarities to others. We create the very divisive structure that we claim we want to see eliminated. Unfortunately, many do not want to see these structures removed from Society. How else can a political nominee measure demographics to try to mobilize specific groups to vote? How else can an insurance company classify individuals to "customize" rates in order to preserve their bottom line? How else can social constructs negotiate for preferential treatment or special privileges? We have grown accustomed to the power struggles among groups of people, when we should be tearing down these constructs and forcing one simple question onto everyone: what is best for the human race?I certainly cannot claim to have all of the answers or to have a roadmap leading us from our current struggles to the promised land. I know, without the slightest doubt, that our first step is to honestly look at each other as equals instead of looking at the idiotic notions of separate classifications of people based on any physical trait. Unfortunately, as I get older, I realize the likelihood of seeing my dream come true becomes less and less likely with every passing year. Maybe, at this point, I have to just keep the world from changing me instead of hoping for change in the world.

Things My Son Taught Me... Seven Month Edition

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Prior Post(s) in this series:

  • Things I've Learned Since Becoming A Father

Ask any parent what it is like to have a child and you will probably hear some variation of "it's such an amazing experience; I don't know how to describe it," or "I've never experienced such love and joy." There is a large amount of truth in each of those answers and their assorted variations, but every parent leaves a lot of things unsaid. There truly, and I mean that with all sincerity, just are not proper combinations of words in any language that can convey what it is like to have your own little spawn creating a whirlwind of... not terror... umm... well... crap. We'll come back to that thought. Maybe providing some lessons I've learned first will provide enough background for us to come up with the ending of that statement together.

Lesson One: "If I can reach it, I can try to eat it."

I knew a kid was prone to putting anything into their mouth and at least trying to bite it a few times. That hasn't surprised me. What has surprised me, however, is that pillows are the greatest thing ever invented for trying to eat. Consistently. To the point where my son's excitement to see the pillow and lunge for it, jaws agape, like a little vampire diving onto a plump, chunky human after weeks of fasting seems to be normal behavior to us now.

And hard plastic? You would think that would be tossed aside quickly in favor of any number of hundreds of other items we now possess, but a hard plastic toy seems to be the second best option. Lesson learned. The more logical the thought of something being a highly sought after chew toy, the less likely my son will choose to chew on it.

Lesson Two: "I will show you the true power of the digestive system."

Chemical warfare. There is no other phrase that even possibly encapsulates the odors a child can produce. I have smelled many, many things in my lifetime that were unpleasant, and even borderline unbearable. There are times when my son will turn, look me dead in the eye, and then let rip the most unholy of odors while laughing maniacally (ok, in fairness, he just smiles and giggles slightly, but I interpret that as the infant equivalent of the Joker's hysterical laughter in this situation).

Not even a group of adult males binging on Taco Bell and Krystal after a night of liberal consumption of libations can compare to the destructive power of an infant's normally functioning and fully operational digestive system. Lesson learned. Invest in gas masks, febreeze, lysol, and powerful vortex fans to push airflow throughout the home...

Lesson Three: "I can still be ridiculously cute, and you will still fall for it."

I'm pretty sure every parent has the same basic idea bout their own child. Genetics should require such behavior. Seriously, if my son was not as cute/handsome/adorable as he is, I can see how ignoring him could be an option. Or donating him. Or trying to return him to the hospital. Being adorable has to be the baby equivalent of a genetic defense mechanism, ensuring parental attachment and continued survival into adolescence, when parental investment is too great to scrap the project and start over.

Seriously, how could you not fall for this face? Lesson learned. Your child possesses innate kryptonite to keep you from trying to pawn him/her off.

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Lesson Four: The joy of watching a child grow, and the happiness they bring, really cannot be explained.

Think of the following string of descriptors: excitement, apprehension, confusion, joy, fear, frustration, exhaustion, love. Yeah... children are an emotional train wreck slamming into a psychological roller coaster at the apex of the first hill. Every milestone is a combination of excitement that the minion achieved something new and apprehension at how this new skill translates into getting into something you haven't thought of yet. The classic example is learning to crawl, because as a parent you become ecstatic for a fleeting moment that your child figured out movement (a complex concept), followed by the immediate realization that your child is now capable of getting into things that you used to place safely out of reach (and the dread that comes with realizing your child can now stalk you). Lesson learned. Kids are wonderful, you just have to learn to focus on the positive moments.

Lesson Five: There is a different kind of love a parent possesses for their child, and it should not be in any type of competition with the love each parent holds for their significant other.

This is one of those things that tends to be overlooked, and yet is absolutely an important distinction to make. The love I feel for my son cannot be explained. I didn't choose to love him, I just did. I didn't find him attractive and court him, he just showed up and I was smitten. I can't choose not to love him (well, ok, technically I could...). On the other hand, I did seek out my wife. I found her attractive and courted her, wanting to spend the rest of my life with her by my side. These are both manifestations of love, but they are absolutely a different kind of love from one another. Neither is stronger than the other. While this isn't necessarily a lesson my son taught me, and I'm taking a break from the humorous aspect for this point, it's something that has become that much clearer having a child. Just keep this one in mind and make sure you focus on both relationships properly, ok?

Lesson Six: Fear is a strong emotion. It will test you.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering...Come on, did you really thing I wouldn't work that quote in when I decided to add a point about fear to the list? Children will test your ability to overcome fear. How close do I let him crawl at light speed toward the edge of the couch before I stop him from diving head first onto the hardwood floor? How big a bite do I let him keep of that teething wafer, or whatever solid food we're trying today? Am I putting the fracking car seat in correctly or does it just look and feel like it is correct, lulling me into a false sense of security?

I'm suddenly an overprotective father. How? I've never been overprotective that I'm aware of. It is a constant line I have to remind myself to be mindful of, and force myself to accept some things as part of the learning process. It isn't always easy. Lesson learned. Having a child will make you suddenly question the safety of everything you are doing, even though you know full well you did plenty of stupid stuff as a kid that should have killed you.

So, how do we finish that statement I couldn't figure out how to finish earlier? Well, I'm not so sure we need to. After all, we've made it this far without the proper combinations of words to describe the ups and downs, the joys and frustrations, the sheer excitement and mind-freeing angst of raising a child. What's another few hundred years before trying to come up with another way to describe it to someone else?

Understanding The Brain and Violence

Over the past two decades a significant amount of research has been undertaken that attempts to identify the connection between variations in brain structure and brain functioning with emotions, personality traits, and behaviors; this body of research has generated empirical evidence implicating variations in both brain structure and function in the development of practically every conceivable antisocial phenotype, especially aggression and violence (Beaver, 2013). Although Wright, Tibbets, and Daigle (2008) caution that some of the conclusions drawn from research into variations in brain structure and functioning are still preliminary and not well-established, the fact that there is a link between said variations and criminal violence is clear.

Two primary sections of the brain have been linked to the development of aggressive behaviors, primarily through the development of strong emotional responses combined with limited rational ability to regulate said responses: the limbic system and the frontal lobe. It is worth noting that multiple brain structures have been implicated in affecting behavior in addition to these two regions, especially the midbrain area including the pituitary, hypothalamus, cingulate gyrus, caudate nucleus, and ventral tegmental area (Wright et al., 2008).

Within the limbic system, the amygdala, which is responsible for emotions and partially responsible for memory, has been found to directly influence changes in violent or hostile activity (Wright et al., 2008). Also in the limbic system, the hippocampus, which is the primary memory center in the brain, is responsible for individuals' ability to anticipate or comprehend cause-effect relationships; an ability that has been found lacking in criminals, especially in violent offenders (Wright et al., 2008). Wright et al. (2008) state that these two brain structures, working together, are believed to be the most important sections of the brain that control emotions, survival responses (e.g. fight or flight response), and social responses (e.g. jealousy, anger). In addition, neuroimaging studies show structural and functional differences in the limbic systems of psychopaths as opposed to non-psychopaths, and spouse abusers have more active limbic systems combined with lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is examined below, than non-spouse abusers (Beaver, 2013).

The frontal lobe, which is the anterior portion of the cerebral cortex and located right behind the forehead, is the brain structure most implicated in the development of criminality (Wright et al., 2008). A healthy frontal lobe controls emotional impulses and drives rational thought, with injury to the area affecting an individual’s ability to control emotional impulses; in fact, damage to the frontal lobe results in severe mood changes, inflexibility in cognition, and a high inclination toward violent behavior (Wright et al., 2008). According to Wright et al. (2008), studies have linked frontal lobe damage to feelings of indifference toward the consequences of affected individuals’ behavior as well as impulsiveness. It is also important to note that the frontal lobe does not become fully developed until the mid- to late twenties as opposed to the limbic system, which becomes fully developed around the onset of puberty (Beaver, 2013).While this last fact could help explain the onset of delinquent and antisocial behaviors in adolescence and the “aging-out” of criminal involvement by most youth, it is also important when considering the ability of individuals to control emotional impulses.

Beaver (2013) describes the current state of research into brain structure and function with regard to criminality best, stating that empirical evidence supports the theory that both brain structure and function are directly associated with violence, psychopathy, and psychopathic personality traits. Further, the research has shown that criminals and individuals exhibiting antisocial phenotypes possess variations in brain structure and function that increase activity in the limbic system while also possessing an underactive frontal lobe (Beaver, 2013). In effect, the brain is unable to regulate impulses and emotions properly in criminally violent individuals.

References:

Beaver, K. (2013). Biosocial criminology: a primer. (2nd ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt

Wright, J.P., Tibbetts, S.G., & Daigle, L.E. (2008). Criminals in the making: criminality across the life course. Los Angeles: Sage.

"Broken Windows" Policing

Wilson and Kelling (in Cole & Gertz, 2013) discuss the concept of the “broken windows” theory which, in summary, posits that disorderly or unruly behaviors left unchecked lead to greater disorder and, possibly, criminal behavior. In an effort to maintain order in a neighborhood, and thus attempt to mitigate or reduce potential criminal behaviors, police officers often utilize their authority to remove potential threats to order through charges with little legal meaning such as “suspicious person,” “vagrancy,” or “public drunkenness” (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013). The decriminalization of such behaviors, or the cessation of treating such behaviors as illegal, removes an invaluable tool from law enforcement officials in maintaining order within neighborhoods and, by extension, invites a rise in disorder that could lead to increased criminal activity. In short, Wilson and Kelling’s (in Cole & Gertz, 2013) declaration that the decriminalization of disreputable behavior is a mistake is accurate.

In order to better understand why Wilson and Kelling are correct in their assertion, a more in-depth look at the “broken windows” theory is first necessary. In 1969, Philip Zimbardo conducted experiments to test the broken-window theory. He arranged to have an automobile without license plates with its hood up placed in the Bronx, and a comparable vehicle placed in Palo Alto, California (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013). Vandals attacked the vehicle in the Bronx within ten minutes, and everything of value was stripped within twenty-four hours; random destruction of the vehicle began shortly afterward (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013). The vehicle in Palo Alto remained untouched for more than a week, until Zimbardo smashed part of the vehicle in with a sledgehammer; within a few hours, the vehicle had been turned upside down and destroyed (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013).

Zimbardo’s experiment highlights the core idea behind the broken-window theory: one broken window, if left untended, indicates a lack of concern about a location and invites more broken windows. Similarly, one undeterred panhandler in a neighborhood becomes the first “broken window,” and if law enforcement or concerned citizens cannot keep a single panhandler from annoying passersby then opportunistic criminals may believe their chances of being caught or identified in such a neighborhood are greatly diminished (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013).

There are, of course, concerns that the utilization of the aforementioned charges to maintain order within a neighborhood may infringe on an individual’s rights or be applied inequitably by police officers. According to Wilson and Kelling (in Cole & Gertz, 2013), there may be agreement on certain behaviors that male a person undesirable, but there must also be assurance that age, skin color, national origin, harmless mannerisms, or other such factors do not become the basis for distinguishing between undesirable and desirable persons within a neighborhood. There is not a wholly satisfactory answer to such a concern, aside from the hope that the selection, training, and supervision of police officers results in a clear sense of the limit of their discretionary authority (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013).

The broken-window theory suggests that minor disturbances and undesirable behaviors in a neighborhood, if left unchecked, lead to greater disorder and potentially criminal behavior. Such behaviors also create a sense of fear in residents of those neighborhoods, which leads to people avoiding one another and weakening controls in the neighborhood (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013) and thus inviting further disorder. By utilizing charges of “suspicious person,” “vagrancy,” and “public drunkenness” police officers are able to help maintain order and, subsequently, reduce fear and the potential for crime legally. To decriminalize such behaviors would reduce the ability of police officers to assist neighborhoods in maintaining order, and would certainly be a mistake.

Sources:

Cole, G. & M. Gertz (eds.) (2012). The criminal justice system: Politics and policies, 10th ed. Belmont, CA: West/Wadsworth.

Worrall, J. (2008). Crime control in America: What works? 2nd ed. Boston: Pearson.

Reflecting on Apple

After taking some time to ponder the announcements made at the recent Apple event, and after spending some time reading the various analyses from others, a few things really jump out at me that I think warrant examining closer.First and foremost, the move to a 64-bit architecture and operating system may seem like nothing more than an attempt to be able to say "hey, we've got something no one else has" and capitalize on such a statement from a purely marketing standpoint. If we were discussing another company, I might even be inclined to agree. Here's the problem with such a statement, though: Apple has never used such a tactic before, and always looks at what adopting any technology will bring to the customer experience.Note, if you can't accept that simple understanding behind the way Apple operates, you might want to stop reading now.So, what possibilities could a 64-bit architecture bring to a mobile device? Efficiency and performance are obvious possibilities, as are pure power and capabilities, but in this case I think the move hints at some really interesting possibilities. (It's worth interjecting here that there is an excellent analysis of some of those possibilities with regards to other product lines here, which I noticed courtesy of Gruber at Daring Fireball.) One possibility is the implementation of enhanced/increased multitasking capabilities as a result of increased throughput throughout the system. Another is the potential for refinements in power usage and efficiency (think along the lines of using multiple threads to achieve a process in a shorter time, which lowers the power drain of a system by returning to idle quicker). Honestly, this isn't an area I'm well-versed in, but I can certainly see the potential.Another thought that sticks out to me regarding the performance improvements of the A7 and the move to a 64-bit OS lies in conjunction with the fingerprint sensor. Utilizing any strong encryption scheme requires some overhead, especially when considering that the need for seamless and snappy response are of paramount importance to an end user. This could easily be the groundwork necessary for re-imagining security on a mobile device. Imagine using the Touch ID sensor to access iCloud keychain (when released) data, and instead of having to remember or enter a security code the fingerprint takes care of verification? Or if access to Touch ID by third parties is allowed, and you no longer have to sign in to your banking/financial applications? Running on a system designed to leverage the performance gains of a 64-bit system certainly seems like a precursor to a smooth transition to seamless interaction in such a manner.And then there's the interesting idea that increased security might finally allow the virtualization of debit and credit cards in Passbook. Imagine if the entire Operating System could be run in an encrypted environment, which would only be possible (when considering the necessity of smooth and snappy operation from the customer experience point of view) with the power and performance possibilities a 64-bit system could bring to the table. This could prove to be the way to finally change the way people access financial resources, much like the oft-touted NFC chip promised but couldn't deliver.Naturally this is all speculation, but the key takeaway is this: if you don't understand that Apple only adopts technology when there's a reason behind the decision that's aimed at what it means for customers, then you haven't been paying attention to history. Sure, there are plenty of devices with different feature sets, and you should always choose the device whose features match what you want out of it, but to look at Apple's iPhone business as faltering or running out of steam is to look only at the current picture and not think about the foundation it suddenly created.