What is so hard about the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness?

I am a materialist in the sense that I think that all phenomena arise due to material entities interacting according to laws of nature. I have seen no reason to think that anything supernatural or mystical is needed to be invoked to explain anything. I have sometimes been asked by people, usually the religious seeking to challenge my atheistic viewpoint that the material world is all there is and does not allow for any gods, as to how I can explain love. They seem to think that love is an immaterial quantity and that believing in its existence requires the same leap of faith as believing in a god. I reply that love is an emotion that is created by the workings of my brain that releases certain substances that cause me to have that feeling I point out that when I die, any love that I feel for anyone or anything will die with me. It does not survive the death of my brain.
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Women surfers in Sri Lanka

When it comes to gender issues, Sri Lanka is a land of contradictions. In many areas there is a very high degree of equality. Women can be found in large numbers (sometimes the majority) in government, education, academia, business, and the professions, and it is common for them to occupy the highest positions in all those areas. So in that sense the country is quite advanced. But it is also the case that when it comes to social life, there is still quite a lot of gender disparity. Women are expected to be the main caregivers and homemakers in the family even when they are equal or the major breadwinners. This becomes more so when one leaves the more cosmopolitan metropolitan areas and move into the rural regions.

So I was interested in this article that spoke about how women living in a coastal area had to overcome objections in order to take up surfing. It began when a woman from California invited her neighbor to join her, offering to teach her.
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Don’t unnecessarily kill off animals in dramas!

One of the nice things about the arrival of streaming services is that we now get to see many programs produced in countries where the language is other than English. I tend to watch a lot of police procedurals, a genre that seems to be very popular worldwide as can be seen from the many mini-series that are being shown in a variety of languages. (Spoiler alert: In what follows, there is a spoiler for a minor plot line in the Spanish (Galician) series Bitter Daisies that can be seen on Netflix.)

In these shows, there are of course human corpses galore but one expects them so their appearance does not really disturb unless the filmmakers go out of their way to show blood and gore and violence, which, fortunately few of them do. Most often, the dead bodies are just briefly seen in the crime scene or in the morgue or the autopsy room.
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The Republican dilemma: How to keep Trump from wrecking their plans

The Republican party should be very complacent about their chances of winning majorities in both the US Senate and House of Representatives in the mid-term elections to be held in November. Usually the party that holds the presidency loses seats in mid-term elections and since the Democrats currently hold such wafer-thin majorities, even a slight swing away from them would make them the minority in both chambers. In addition Joe Biden has particularly low ratings and the issue of inflation is hurting him. The only upside for Biden and the Democrats is if the pandemic really and truly goes away, the country opens up again, and the economy starts booming with lots of jobs being created. The Ukraine war is a wild card whose effect on US elections will be hard to predict.

But clearly there is some concern in the Republican party leadership that there is a wild card that could mess up their plans and that is Donald Trump. He clearly sees his own needs and satisfying his ego as the most important thing and the needs of the Republican party a distant second.
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Amazon and Starbucks adopt disgusting union-busting tactics

These two big companies that make a lot of profits are facing unionization efforts and have resorted to disgusting union-busting tactics. This is of course no surprise for Amazon, one of the most openly rapacious of companies but Starbucks does not have such a bad reputation and this union-busting is tearing the mask off to reveal that it is not that different from Amazon in its anti-worker ethos.

An Amazon union avoidance official told employees at JFK8, Amazon’s largest New York City warehouse, that if they unionize, certain workers could see their salaries reduced to minimum wage, or that negotiations could start with minimum wage as a baseline, according to leaked audio from the mandatory anti-union meeting that took place Wednesday and was obtained by Motherboard.

Much of the tenor of the 14-minute meeting, held at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse that is currently trying to unionize, was like this, with Amazon’s representative stressing that the election has “significant and binding consequences not just for yourselves but for future associates, your coworkers, and potentially for your family.” The subtext of the entire speech was that things could very possibly become worse for workers if they unionize, and that they should think very, very hard before voting to do so.
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Sex work is just another form of work

On his show Last Week Tonight John Oliver tackled the topic of sex work, a topic that is surrounded by a whole lot of misconceptions, ignorance, hypocrisy, and just plain old prudishness, and the people who suffer because of these things are the sex workers themselves, who are often at the receiving end of laws and other efforts to ‘save’ them that end up actually hurting them. One of the big problems is the conflating of sex work with sex trafficking, two very different things that require very different responses.
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Why Ukraine?

As a general rule, I tend to view with deep skepticism the reasons given by political leaders for their actions, especially when they go to war, since they usually justify the decision in lofty but vague terms while what drives their actions is usually more concrete and far less noble. So when Russian president Vladimir Putin said prior to the invasion of Ukraine that the west was threatening Russia by bringing NATO forces ever closer to his country and that Ukraine entering that western military alliance would be an intolerable threat to their security, I tended to think that there must be at least some other factors driving his decisions.
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