Organ transplant

Continuing today's non-political blogging, how could I resist this item: “Penis transplant removed after two weeks.”  Here's the key info:

Chinese doctors say they successfully transplanted a penis on a man who
lost his own in an accident, but had to remove it two weeks later
because of psychological problems experienced by the man and his wife.

The case appears to be the first such transplant reported in a
medical journal ? European Urology, published by the European
Association of Urology.

The Chinese doctors could not be reached for comment, and their
report does not explain how the 44-year-old man lost his penis. It says
only that “an unfortunate traumatic accident” left him with a small
stump, unable to urinate or have sex normally.

Honestly, I cannot think of anything, funny or otherwise, to add, so I'll leave it at that.


Pay per lecture

Right here at NCSU, a Communications professor has recently drawn considerable attention for selling podcasts of his lectures on-line for $2.50 a pop.  He has been, at least temporarily, shut down by the administration until they decide what position the university should take on the matter.  Here's the crux:

Parcel [dean of my college] said the university is not questioning whether Schrag owns
the copyright to his recordings. Higher education has long held that
professors own the work they present in class, and the courts have
uniformly agreed throughout the years.

What isn't clear, Parcel said, is whether selling the lectures to students presents a conflict of interest.

the university and Schrag realize that it doesn't matter whether he
makes $1 profit or $100 for each recording. What's at stake is the
principle of how far a person's intellectual property rights extend.

you consider the price of a concert ticket as your tuition, that ticket
doesn't give you the right to the CD,” Schrag said. “You don't get to
pirate the work.”

As an academic, I do find this quite interesting.  I was thinking to myself that I do not think I would ever sell my lectures, but actually, I already do.  I teach a distance ed class that is recorded on DVD.  Students pay an additional fee to take the course in this format and I get paid per student.  So, in a way, that's exactly what I'm doing.

Why email is addictive

Courtesy of my friend Kyle, I came across this very interesting post about why email is so addictive.  In short, operant conditioning.  Here's how it works:

The most effective training regime is one where you give the animal a
reward only sometimes, and then only at random intervals. Animals
trained like this, with what's called a 'variable interval
reinforcement schedule', work harder for their rewards, and take longer
to give up once all rewards for the behaviour is removed. There's a
logic to this. Although we might know that we've stopped
rewarding the animal, it has got used to performing the behaviour and
not getting the reward. Because 'next time' might always be the
occasion that produces the reward, there's never definite evidence that
rewards have stopped altogether.

We're animals – we have animal brains. All animal brains have the
circuitry in place for producing operant conditioning. It's a
fundamental psychological process, and just the sort that can create
behaviours what operate automatically, or in spite of our consciously
telling ourselves we should do otherwise. Like me checking my checking
my email. Checking email is a behaviour that has variable interval
reinforcement. Sometimes, but not everytime, the behaviour produces a
reward. Everyone loves to get an email from a friend, or some good
news, or even an amusing web link. Sometimes checking your email will
get you one of these rewards. And because you can never tell which time
you check will produce the reward, checking all the time is reinforced,
even if most of the time checking your email turns out to have been
pointless. You still check because you never know when the reward will

Gotta go and check my email now.

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