Tuesday, April 07, 2009

You Know You're An Adult When

You can eat all the crust off the blueberry pie and none of the blueberries and nobody yells at you.

That is, in any case, the way I realized that there are advantages to adulthood.

Hemorrhoid With Eyes

What's with this wingnuts' fascination concerning bottoms? Rush Limbaugh recently said something about anal poisons and now Michael Savage calls Glenn Beck a hemorrhoid with eyes. And with ears, too. It's naturally very funny when the wingnuts fight each other.

But I'm not so sure if we should get all our entertainment from political commentaries, given that they are often about serious matters. This, for instance, is just a little bit frightening, once you get past the laughing stage:

There are many more frightening scenarios, of course (gun shows, say), but somehow the mixing of lies, ignorance, threats and urges to panic isn't ultimately very funny. I'm probably just a humorless feminazi here, sigh.

Who Am I Chatting WIth?

It's an odd medium, this blogging thing. Odder some days than others, sure, but it's always weird in the sense of being a mongrel born from chatting with people on one side and some form of solitary writing on the other side.

I throw out thoughts. And sometimes I get responses. But who is it who reads the thoughts? And when you write on someone else's blog, do you write for a totally different audience? I find myself stilted and blocked when visiting like that, because some part of me thinks of it as visiting another person's home and so the rules of being the guest apply. I can't spit on the carpet or swear. But then perhaps those are my strengths? See what I mean? Probably not, as these thoughts might not interest someone who isn't blogging.

Who is it that we are chatting with? Think of how we converse on this blog, sometimes quite heatedly, think of how we respond to a comment someone else has made, how we have what looks like a conversation between a small number of people. But all that remains in the archives and ten months later someone can come in and read the discussion and leave a comment, like a ghost. Only I most likely see it there. Was that ghost part of the conversation? Where do the dead blog posts go?

And of course most people don't respond to any one post. Do they read? Does not knowing this matter?

Most days I don't think of any of this. Most days I just have lots of fun. But blogging is ephemeral, something that's here and then is not here. What was it that took place and where did it go?

Good News Tuesday

Same-sex marriage is legal in Vermont. That's good news, because it increases fairness in this world.

The Taliban-style law for Shia women in Afghanistan has been dropped after public outcry from dirty-fucking-hippies in the West. That also increases fairness though perhaps not by very much given that most women who would have been affected by the law live the way it would have stipulated in any case. But it's like the first sand grain starting to move from a wall. Or so I hope.

And last but not least (well, least, really): Americans are more optimistic about the economy since the presidential inauguration. This matters, because much of the recession has to do with emotions and beliefs and worry. Worry makes it much, much worse.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Who You Gonna Believe? Nicolle Wallace Or Your Own Ears?

Now that's a difficult choice to make. I'm pretty sure I heard Barack Obama scolding Europeans about their reflexive anti-Americanism, but Nicolle Wallace didn't. All she heard was no bragging about Murka and her exceptionalism. In Nicolle's world one brags a lot about one's own house while visiting other people's houses. That's good manners.

Free Markets Of Ideas

Remember when we were told that the Internet would provide us the ultimate free market for ideas? A place where ideas would don their silver helmets, raise their magic swords and go at each other at the dawn of the New Era, all following the Marquess of Queenberry rules, naturally? A civilized but open struggle! Let the best idea win!

It doesn't look anything like that, does it? Except perhaps for that manly parable I painted, all stirred together from unarmed combat and noble dueling. What mostly seems to have happened is that the ideas cower each in their own corner of the boxing ring, surrounded by their acolytes. Thus, the conservatives stay on their blogs and the liberals stay on their blogs and any visiting consists of trolling raids.

I'm not sure what the impact of that will be on the mythical free market of ideas. Neither am I sure why it seems to be the case that an unmoderated large forum is always ultimately taken over by the extremists and/or the trolls. If the idea of a free market of ideas really worked then we'd have to conclude that it's the trolls and/or the extremists who had the best ideas.

The conclusion I draw from all this is that the cyberspace does not provide a free market for ideas. Of course I could have drawn the same conclusion much more quickly by just checking the list of requirements of a perfectly competitive market against the cyberspace reality, but that wouldn't have made a post.

Monday Morning Muddle Study

Just for the fun of it. Did you know that depressed women give their children unhealthier food? Or perhaps not! Perhaps depressed women force their children to eat well as a control issue? Or both! Yasss...

- We found that mothers who were emotionally unstable, anxious, angry, sad, had poor self-confidence or a negative view of the world were far more likely to give their child sweet and fatty foods. At the same time, there was no link between maternal personality and how healthy a diet the child got in the form of fruit and vegetables, explains psychologist Eivind Ystrøm at the NIPH.

These maternal personality traits fall under a collective name of high negative affectivity (negative emotions). These people often have a lower stress threshold, giving up quicker when faced with obstacles – e.g. in a disagreement – and often experience lack of control of the child.

- I think that mothers compensate for this either by trying to force healthy food into their child or hold the sweet-bag strings extra tightly. Paradoxically, they try to balance poor control by actually using more control. With force and restrictions they increase desire which quickly results in resistance in the form of tantrums which these mothers are also bad at resisting. Also, earlier studies have shown that controlling behaviour among parents is linked with a more sugar-rich diet among children.

And what would be the reason to study this? To give the mothers some help BECAUSE otherwise they feed their children bad foods? Why not give them some help because they themselves deserve it? It's odd how hard it is to justify something like that, isn't it?

But of course I'm being unfair here and the study is probably a whole lot more honest than most of those what's-wrong-with-women studies that I discuss, as it dares to point out some of the complications. Likewise, people in the academia must publish something, and so we get lots of studies. Lots.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

School Marm...

Now this is an interesting accusation I've seen used recently: to call someone a school marm as a Bad Thing.

Why is it a bad thing, exactly? Worth thinking about, eh?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Saturday Critter Blogging

A blue heron in flight, courtesy of The Old Man From Scene 24. Click for a larger view. Beautiful.

Why The Dog Looks At You Like That When You Empty The Compost Bucket by Anthony McCarthy

Dog culture is pheromone based.
What stinks to us is to their taste,
To them high art, to us just waste.
Dog culture is pheromone based.
A Note:

I've been taking some courses that I've got to finish this month so I'm going to be posting very lightly in April, if at all.

Anthony McCarthy

Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday News Dump on Women

Compare the two pictures of the new Israeli government. The female ministers have been disappeared in the second one, because it was published in an ultra-orthodox newspaper. Another ultra-orthodox newspaper just blacked out the women. So nobody gets upset and stuff.

In Swat Valley, Pakistan, the Taliban are flogging women publicly, though I think only men are allowed to watch. The video of the flogging of a seventeen-year old girl has surfaced and caused an uproar in Pakistan. The uproar is good, of course, but the event itself is not very good.

For one thing, nobody appears to know what the girl was punished for (though theories include her leaving her home without a male custodian, leaving the house together with a man married to someone else and just refusing the marriage proposal of a local Taliban leader). It seems that there was no court case over her alleged crimes, either. Sigh.

Public places: Which public? (by Suzie)

           (Hang on, this post will travel far afield.)
           A friend traveled across Southern Europe and Northern Africa as a young man. He often was alone as he hitchhiked and slept outdoors. He wasn’t always welcome, but no one bothered him physically. He’s a sweet guy, but he looks mean, and he’s at least 6-foot-5.
          When I said I envied him, he replied that I could have done the same. I told him that it would be different for a young woman traveling alone. That had never occurred to him.
          Learning about yourself and the world while traveling has long been a theme in literature. Although men predominate, women have contributed to this genre. On my bookshelf alone, I’ve got “A Road of Her Own: Women's Journeys in the West,” “Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers” and “Maiden Voyages: Writings of Women Travelers.
These books often feature white women traveling to “exotic” places, defining themselves against other(ed) people or nature. (In comparison, the Apostate recently looked at traveling as a brown woman.)
        Whatever her color, a woman is likely to find gender matters, in some fashion or another. As I wrote last week about the “Battlestar Galactica” finale, it’s different for girls. When people talk of “public” places – whether it’s a train in another country or your neighborhood park or the Internet – question whether there are some “publics” who cannot use them safely and comfortably, and why.
       Linda McDowell, then director of the Graduate School of Geography at Cambridge University, wrote an excellent book titled “Gender, Identity & Place: Understanding Feminist Geographies." She gives the example of Tomkins Square Park in New York City. In the 1990s, the Leftist position was: Young, upper-class people wanted to clear out those who were homeless, mentally ill or doing drugs so that they (the yuppies) felt safer, and their property values could rise. But this ignored gender. Some women, no matter what their circumstances, may feel less safe in places where groups of men hang out – and for good reason.
        In my high school, there was a hallway with a long bench where guys would congregate, making nasty comments if a girl walked by. The hall served one public but not another. Some boys take this behavior into adulthood. For example: the blow-up last year over men groping women at SF conventions
        The Internet has made such harassment easier and anonymous. Echidne has written on the AutoAdmit case here and more recently. The NYT explored the world of trolls, in which men predominate. The dictum is always: Don't let them bother you -- that's what they want. Just ignore them and they'll go away. Once again, women must be the gatekeepers of bad male behavior. 
         Justin Wolfers noted something that newspaper editors have long noticed: Men are more likely to send angry emails, just as they once made hateful calls or sent angry letters. The online version of many newspapers allow comments, most of which would never have been printed as letters to the editors. (Here's an interesting discussion on this topic.) The conversations can be so hateful and downright stupid that I rarely read them -- and I'm a blogger.
         At my former newspaper, a group of readers, mostly men, have infested the comment sections, driving away others. I've heard that smart and articulate readers will win out in this marketplace of ideas. But, no, they just avoid the comments. The online bullies also go after the people who are being quoted in such an execrable way that I don't know why anyone would want to open themselves up these days.
          Which "public" is being served? 

Domestic violence & the economy (by Suzie)

           Florida has seen a 37 percent increase in the demand for domestic-violence shelters, according to a report to the Legislature by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. If it's happening here, I wouldn't be surprised if it was happening in other states. 
           The Pensacola News Journal suggests some reasons: More people are at home because of layoffs. The recession puts more stress on people. Friends and family members have fewer resources to help victims. Cuts in social services translate into less help. Women stay in shelters longer because it's harder to get a job and move out on their own.
           The newspaper quotes Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon: "It's the worst I've seen in years."

Friday flower blogging (by Suzie)

        I hope you're enjoying springtime (if that's the season you're in). 

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Who Is Afraid Of Public Health Insurance?

The Republican Party, that's who. I was reading about Kathleen Sebelius and her confirmation hearing to become the secretary of health and human services, and noticed the focus on the question of a public option in the health insurance markets:

Grassley and several colleagues voiced discomfort with suggestions that legislation include an optional government-sponsored health insurance program. Conservatives worry that a public plan would set unrealistically low reimbursement rates that could undermine the private insurance market.

Conservatives probably also worry that the public option might actually out-compete the private options and then we'd get --- gasp! --- socialism! Or at least socialism the way that term is used in this country which knows nothing about real socialism.

This particular topic gets the oddest comments from the Republicans. Grassley worries that the public option will pay providers too little (or that's how I interpret the 'low reimbursement rate' comment in the above quote), and Olympia Snowe worries that the option is too expensive:

The issue has already emerged as key stumbling block that threatens bipartisan consensus on health-overhaul legislation this year. Many congressional Democrats say that a health bill would have to include a nationwide public-insurance option, while Republicans readily dismiss the concept.

It is unclear if there is room for compromise between lawmakers on the issue. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, a moderate Republican on the Finance panel who could prove a major player in debate over health legislation, warned Thursday that a public-plan option "could end up being far more costly" for those seeking insurance.

But if it's too expensive people will not sign up for it. Right?

First Spouses

Shouldn't it be first spice? You know, mouse-mice, louse-lice. In any case, nobody writes 'first spouses', because the spouses of powerful people are overwhelmingly female and thus called wives. If they happen to be husbands they hide from the public eye, because being a first spouse is demeaning for a guy. Really.

Dana Goldstein points out the invisible husbands as a commentary to this picture, which is supposed to be about the spouses of the G-20 bigwigs:

But the two husbands, Néstor Kirchner and Joachim Sauer, are missing. If they were in the picture they'd be ridiculed. Really.

All this reminded me of Darrel Issa's attempt to put some controls on the First Lady:

House Republicans are pressing for a change in federal law that could force Michelle Obama and future first ladies to do more of their policy work in public. But Democrats warn President Obama may take the attempt personally "as an attack on his wife."

The GOP effort is being led by the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose initial salvo was rebuffed recently at a contentious committee markup session. Under Issa's amendment, any government policy group that Mrs. Obama or another first spouse regularly participates in would be subject to a law requiring meetings to be announced in advance and, in most instances, public.


"We are trying actually to protect the historic role of the first lady," Issa insisted, repeatedly invoking the "transparency" mantra of the Obama administration. "I believe this is open government at its finest."


The video, as recorded by the committee's GOP staff, is after the jump. Discussion of the first ladies' amendment begins at about 10:57.

Note all the references to 'first ladies'. And to 'future first ladies'. The assumption is that first spouses will always be female. Really.

The GOP Budget Proposal And Dishwasher Detergent

I wanted to write about it yesterday because it really is an April Fool proposal but then people might have thought I made it up. Because the Republicans want the stimulus package to be canceled and government expenditure to be frozen for five years!!!! And then to apply something called 'free' stimulus! No, it's not dildoes for all but drilling (drill, baby, drill!) for oil in ANWR. And of course there would be loads of tax breaks for the rich.

It's a very funny proposal, because it consists pretty much of what the Hoover government did to really make the Great Depression great rather than little.

Sounds somewhat deranged to me. So does this post on RedState (a winger blog) about how the conservatives should grab arms to fight a law in Washington state which bans phosphates in dishwasher detergents:

Washington State has turned its residents into a group of drug runners — crossing state lines to buy dish washer detergent with phosphate.

At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?

At some point soon, it will happen. It'll be over an innocuous issue. But the rage is building. It's not a partisan issue. There is bipartisan angst at out of control government made worse by dumb bans like this and unintended consequences like AIG's bonus problems.

I couldn't help thinking how a Republican guy would mutter to himself: "This is the straw that broke the camel's back! To the barricades brothers! errr.... What's dishwasher detergent?"

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Vanity Fair

Is the new boyz' magazine. Like Playboy. Except that we are supposed to pretend that it's not, because it has real articles. Unless only boyz read real articles.

What irritates me about this is not the use of naked women on the cover. If the magazine openly stated that it's a soft-porn magazine for hetero guys, that would be sort of acceptable. But we are not supposed to notice that. Even though these choices tell us that Vanity Fair is chasing after the young-horny-male demographic. And offer no delicious naked guys.

April Fool's Day

Do you ever read in my archives? I went back to see what I have written on other April Fool's Days. In 2004:

Let's look at something more cheerful instead. First, there are very good news for the mice: they can be vaccinated against the SARS virus. This makes it much more comfortable for them to travel to the Far East. Humans are very kind to the mice; sometimes it seems that almost all medical research has to do with the well-being of our four-legged friends. Can mice take artificial sweeteners without harm to their health? Can we solve extreme obesity in mice? Will Prozac work to keep the mice positive while hunting for the cheese? Large libraries consist of all the crucial findings on Mouse Health.

Too bad that humans are rather different from mice, and that not that many of the mice findings generalize terribly well to other mammals. I'm old enough (very old as humans count!) to remember countless mouse health revelations that ultimately had nothing to do with the health of humans. Still, studying mice is a lot more harmless than some other human activities (except from the mouse point of view).

That wasn't quite an April Fool's post but I did write one of those the following year:

I have been offered a book contract! The book will be all about my life as a snake goddess and the many exciting adventures I've had over the centuries. It will include a "Passion of the Christ" episode where I spill the beans about what really happened. Don't worry, there will still be plenty of whipping.

And sex. They doubled the advance when they heard that I once had a hot one-night stand with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert... Ah, those wobbly little chins bring back such memories. I will also reveal all about Eleanor Roosevelt. That was some hot lady! And Franklin wasn't that bad, either, especially after some moonlight swims. But the rest of their staff was pretty clueless.

Then to the modern era! There are good reasons for the glum face of Laura Bush, and I will spell them out. Twice, just to make sure. I will also explain, in great and explicit detail, why Liberal men are so much better in bed, though the word "liberal" will give you the gist of it.

I did offer to correct all the misconceptions in world history and to tell what will happen next, according to us gods and goddesses, but the publishers were not interested. There's no money in it. Instead, they wanted to know if they could have nude pictures of me on the cover. I said no when they explained that they wanted to make me look like I had sixteen breasts.

Ok. This is an April Fool joke and not a very good one, either. I never went to bed with Queen Victoria!

I recycle these because I wish to reduce my carbon footprint. Or tailprint.

Another Pet Peave

So I wake up this morning, get some coffee and start reading my various e-mail accounts. Except that a major one has changed to a 'new and improved!' format overnight, without any prior warning, and I sit there squeezing my eyes narrow trying to see where it is that I can now check my distant account and where my folders have been placed and why the page looks like fresh snow after birds have hopped all over it.

Every time computer people change something to 'new and improved!', my body memory of the old system is wasted, gone, no longer there. All those lightning-fast, instinctive acts take you exactly nowhere. You have to sit there, with narrowed eyes, and use forefinger pokes. And time passes, your gallbladder rebels, and then you decide and go write a blog post instead. (The graph above tells you the story. In the old system my location was far to the right on the horizontal axis, but the system change dropped me right next to the vertical axis, and the effort and time needed for each mail check increased enormously.)

It's not a big complaint if a change indeed vastly improves the system. But so many of these changes do not improve much anything, yet every single one of them has that relatively lumpy learning requirement, and it looks to me as if the supply side of this market doesn't care about it very much at all.

Which is weird, because the customer is presumably the queen or king, right?

I may just be curmudgeony about this, just as I'm curmudgeony about Twitter. Because of those learning costs and the time requirements and the need to see some value in return for all those. But talk me out of this if you wish.
Hee! I added a picture to make this blog more alluring. I'm nuts.