Friday, January 26, 2007

My Firey Temper

I'm so pissed! I just found out more about the fire in my building.

It turns out that it WASN"T an exploding laptop (as channel two reported) it was having 15 things plugged into 1 power strip. So these two morons who lived above me and are apparently computer engineers of some kind just don't understand how power strips work. They were also in the process of being kicked out of the building since they destroyed their apartment and caused everyone's sinks to back up!

In other news they had time to get six, count em SIX suitcases out of their apartment before the fire got so big they couldn't go back in. And these boys did NOT bother in the least to try to estinquish the fire. They just lined up their suicases outside their apartment. When my neighbor told me this (he'd gone up with the fire inspector) I couldn't even speak, I just made outraged hand gestures. (The guy who told me this was the same neighbor who had actually tried to estinguish the fire, though it was too late.)

Anyway, I hope these guys burn. Figuratively of course. Though I doubt they will.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

On Fire

Is what the apartment above me was at about 0230 Wednesday night. The news outlets in the area are reporting that it was due to a laptop left on a couch.

My Chef woke me up at about 2:30 Am with "Uhhh the apartment above us is on fire." I would like to say that I jumped from the bed and gathered all my readily available necessities and escaped in under five minutes. More like we slowly hearded the cats and I ran around like a chicken without its proverbial head trying to find my keys while I called the fire department. Fortunately they were already on their way. We saw the firemen on their way up as we were on the way down, laden with two upset cats. (If you've never tried to get two already very stressed out cats into carriers, well you just haven't lived.)

We existed on snippets of info from the Firemen's radios as they tramped in and out of the building for at least an hour. I have no idea how long we were in the tiny entryway with a bunch of our neighbors and their cats, but I think it was about an hour and a half. The whole time I was freaking out that the floor would give way and all my shit would get burned as well.

Fortunately we were allowed to go back up to find that everything had been moved around and covered with tarps, as water poured through lighting fixtures, and along support beams into my apartment. It was sortof like a cave, only it smelled like moldy fire that someone had farted on.

The water is gone now, we cleaned up yesterday, but I have no internet or cable and my phone broke in the shuffle. Everything still smells like ass though but at least nothing important was broken and everyone is safe. Apparently the apartment above us was destroyed, I still haven't gone up to look. If I do, I will post photos.

I need a nap.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Independant Thought

A secondhand conjecture posts today about a discussion that I guess I missed, apparently a survey indicated that professors are less religious or likely to believe in God than the general populace. Professors at elite universities were indicated to be even less likely to believe in God.

So of course now there can be discussion about A) how this affects students and B) why academics are such godless heathens. Joy of joys.

My thoughts on this: A) In as much as students are able to make up their own minds based on the information available to them. Students, ESPECIALLY at so called "elite" universities are there to learn to think for themselves. And while a professor may on occasion present evidence to support their own worldview, students are free to make up their own minds. Even in some classes students are required to write papers that echo the teacher's worlview in order to get a good grade this does not necessarily cause them to agree. I could make a perfectly good case for universal health care that doesn't mean that I agree with it.

And B) Because to be an academic one must be able to evaluate information and make decisions about it. I'm not arguing that anyone with a brain doesn't believe in God. I am arguing that social pressures (while they still exist) are less prominent for members of elite academic communities because they are encouraged to question the status quo.

If one considers the origins of religion or spirituality this answer makes a bit more sense. When I was two, nobody asked me if I thought there was a God. Many children are raised from a young age to believe in god and many people continue to follow the religion of their parents. Fewer people are left to their own devices to someday sit up from their blocks and say they believe in God. (Note: I'm not saying that people who are not born into religion do not eventually chose a religion. ) I am saying that when your whole family, your culture and your society revolve around the belief in God it can be very difficult to say otherwise. And many times you not only have to reject the idea of God but also a whole set of beliefes and traditions that make up a religion. So to reject those traditions requires someone with a high capacity for independant thought. Surely these individuals are found in many places, but I imagine they are found higher percentages in academia.

The MOST telling part of this discussion is the following questiong from the article (quoted on ASC):

So should we favor elite professors’ views on God, or can we identify other
relevant considerations?

OF course not! You should favor your own beliefs about God. If you question his existance then by all means read up on some of the interesting books that refute the idea of God. But if you REALLY believe, then why do you care what some physics prof believes? What is it with people and the need to agree with others? Why can't we all make up our own minds!?

This drives me NUTS, especially when people who believe seem to think that unless I agree with them their beliefs are meaningless.

On Choice

Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007
Today, as some people might know is the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. And the Bush v. Choice action center asks that people blogging for choice this year post why they are pro choice.
My relationship with choice is somewhat complicated. Attending Catholic school for most of my life I can't really describe my position as anything other than "brainwashed" until I reached college. From an early age abstinence was obvious as the only choice for anyone who didn't want to have children. And when I was 10 this seemed to be a perfectly reasonable position.
In highschool I was President of the "Respect Life" organization. (Though most of the work they did under my leadership was working to make people's lives better, we participated in Habitat for Humanity and similar programs as well as doing things for people in nursing homes and more. Very few of our events were abortion related.) I recieved tons of misinformation about abortion and how the body works, both at Pro life conferences and at school.
A lot of that misinformation was focused on two areas, how birth control works, and when the fetus was "alive." Birth control, in all its forms was touted as ineffective. I don't remember learning about hormonal birth control, but we did talk about IUDs and these were specifically touted as forms of abortion. Also the morning after pill and RU486 were frequently confused with one another. But above all the fetuses life was touted, it's right to live. The wants and desires of the mother never entered into the conversation. By getting pregnant the woman had forfieted these rights. Only after the abortion were her thoughts relevant. We had a speaker at one of these conferences who spoke of her experiences with abortion and how it had scarred her for life. (Femeniste has a post about this "Post Abortion Syndrome" .)
It wasn't until college that I really thought about how important controlling my body's reproduction was to my own personal freedom. Unsurprisingly my desire to remain abstinent did not last into college. I took the morning after pill once, and beat myself up about it for at least a year. Because all of my prior education had told me that if you get sex you WILL get pregnant and that EC was the same as abortion. That particular instance resulted in a large amount of hysteria and depression, but (and this relates to the feminste post) in the light of day I think it had more to do with a traumatic sexual experience, and catholic guilt than it had to do with EC.
After dealing with several of my own scares and a very real issue that a friend of mine had, it wasn't surprising that I started re thinking my position on the abortion issue. (I had totally changed my mind about birth control at this point.) But I think the thing that changed my mind was the day we talked about Margaret Sanger in my Development of American Culture class. Until then I don't think I ever really made the connection between a woman's right to control her own body and a woman's ability to have a career. Nor were coat hanger abortions or how damaging childbirth can be to a woman's body ever an issue. But considering those, I changed my mind.
I still don't think I could ever have an abortion. I'm fairly certain the guilt would kill me (gee thanks Rome). But I wont stand in the way of other women's right to do so, nor will I condemn them for it. It is a very difficult decision and one every woman (or couple) has to make for herself (themselves) based on their own situation. I do think that better funding for birth control and better sex education in schools are the most important steps to lowering the abortion rate, by lowering the number of unintended pregnancies.
And now back to our regularly scheduled ranting.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Anti Feminist Conspiracy Theorist

This is so crazy I can barely get through it. Apparently feminism is all part of some evil one world government scheme. I wonder if the author should actually consider seeing a mental health professional. But considering she puts "quotes" around it every time she says it, it seems like she's already been and didn't like it when her shrink told her she was crazy.

Feministe and femenisting (thematic no?) have more interesting posts about her lovely writings. I am just going to post my letter to her as I sooo enjoyed writing it and it will give me satisfaction to know that someone has actually read it.

Good Afternoon Ms. Levant,

I'm sure that in light of the fact that I am one of the "Dumbest Women who have ever walked the earth" you are not exactly delighted to hear from me. I had considered writing to you to prove you wrong about how dumb I am based on my various academic and professional accomplishments. But this does not seem like it would be entirely productive. You have clearly made up your mind that as someone who desires rights of her own (like the right to own property, to have my own income, to vote etc) I am part of some vast conspiracy to unite the world under some strange form of socialist fascism.

It seems that you long for the days where women were unable to vote, own property, make choices about their own reproduction, work outside the home, get a college degree, or publish books in their own name. And while this is not a longing that I share, I can understand how you would not want to feel the heavy weight of responsibility on your shoulders. So if you prefer to transfer that weight to the stronger more capable shoulders of your husband, I, even as a feminist, can understand. You don't have to vote, or excersize your "rights" to own property, or get a degree, or publish (oh, too late on that one eh?). It is your right to refuse these "rights" that you find so oppressive, as they are a product of feminism.

As one of the dumbest women on earth I find myself puzzled by your stance on feminism. Perhaps you in your wisdom can clarify it for me. How is it that a member of a group can campaign for the continued subjegation for that group as a whole? Why would an individual stand up and say "People who are like me are stupid and do not deserve rights." It puzzles me. My first thought is that someone with such a low opinion of themselves should seek the guidance of a "mental health" professional, who can help them navigate their own self loathing in a more personalized manner that will not actively hurt the cause of their fellows.

While I can understand why one would be willing to give up their own freedoms for a lifestyle or set of beliefs they prefer, I do not think that that individual has the right to hurt the cause of others who desire such rights. I, for instance, plan to go to graduate school, and maybe write a book some day, I look forward to owning my own home having a career and living a long, happy and child free life. If this means that I am supporting an evil one government social fascist conspiracy, well then, it is a conspiracy I am not that upset about participating in. A government that allows me to do exactly what I want with my life without limits based on my gender can't be THAT bad.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Debunking Depression Research

Scott Burgess does an excellent job of finding the fatal error in some "research" by psychologist Oliver James. (You should read his article as it is better than mine)

The research blames capitalism for higher rates of depression and other mental disorders. And while I wont disagree that capitalism can be depressing (Especially when you get your credit card bill) the research is flawed.

The main claim that Mr. Burgess debunks is the high correlation between wealth disparity and high levels of mental illness. Using a whopping 8 datapoints (The US plus seven other nations) they find a correlation of .73. But when the US is removed from this analysis the correlation is only .24.* The US was a strong outlier, and it accounted for a large portion of the positive relationship. (This could be because the US probably has more psychologists with which to diagnose more mental illnesses, seems like everyone has a shrink these days.)

This throws into sharp focus just how easy it is to mislead with statistics. One data point separates this study from proof that capitalism is the root of all mental illnes and a meaningless excersize in graphing. Whether or not Mr. James is simply ignorant of the proper detection of outliers, or whether he deliberately ignored the obvious flaw in his research is unknown, but the fact remains that this study has been published and it will be believed by people who do not hear anyone speak to the contrary.

HT Chez

* For non stats types, a correlation is the measure of a relationship between two measures. It can range from -1 to 1, 1 being a perfect positive relationship and -1 being a perfect negative relationship. .74 is an extremely strong correlation for real world research. This study illustrates just what a weak measurement correlation is, it can easily be affected by just a few strong outliers. Also, while it shows a strong relationship it cannot prove causation. As I wrote on many a students paper back when I was a TA "Correlation DOES NOT equal Causation."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Buzzing to Conclusions

Dr. Helen posted today on a study that found that senior women tend to under evaluate potential female employees. Here is the Times Online link. (Via insty)

First of all, it should be pointed out that this study, that they are talking about, was conducted in southern spain. Perhaps if they had sampled women throughout europe it would be more valid, but ONLY the southern area of Spain? I really don't think that's a very valid sample for all women in the entire world. (Unless Southern Spain is the most internationally representative location in the word... or something.) I don't think the results can be extrapolated to the world. I know that lots of studies are done on college campuses and then extrapolated. But this study in particular deals with highly cultural issues. There is still a lot of variation on in the world on gender relations. I've heard, in the UK for instance (See this BBC "Quiz"), that women have a tougher time of it than in the US.

Also, I don't like that they jumped to a "queen bee" conclusion and plastered that all over the times online article. They do mention the other options, that men are percieved as better leaders by social bias in passing. It seems to me that there needs to be some clarification, is it a concious bias? or an unconcious bias? are women intentionally putting the women down? or do they just happen to rate the men higher? How much of this is social bias, and how much is getting ahead? But it turns out that this is a FICTIONAL company, the women don't work there, they are just evaluating candidates based on a description of the job and a CV.

So how could it be a queen bee issue at all since the women will absolutely NOT be competing with the candidate?

It isn't, the most IMPORTANT sentance in this entire article was the following, and it was buried at the bottom of the article:

They also assessed how likely they might be to receive promotion and were asked
to take into account stereotypical traits of men and women such as sensitivity
or aggression.
So, the study is based ENTIRELY on stereotypes, because the participants in the study were TOLD to USE stereotypes in making their evaluations!!!!!!!!!!!!! It seems to me that a more valid conclusion than the Queen Bee conclusion would be that women have less positive stereotypical views of other women than men do. Or perhaps that men overcompensate for those views when evaluating women.

It interesting to me that Dr. Helen picked up on the Queen Bee aspect, and didn't critically evaluate it, or look for other possible explainations. All that this study does is confirm what many people already believe about women, that we are mean and catty and hate eachother. Thank you Mean Girls. And you know what, that is true, some women are mean and catty and hate eachother. Some Men are mean and catty and hate eachother too, hello politics. It is just that when Men do it they are "competitive" and when Women are mean they are "catty."

All this study is doing is perpetuating stereotypes without giving us any real explaination for the phenomenon. Really, is that helpful? The matriarchy indeed, more like patriarchal views affecting how women view eachother.

UPDATE: Title fixed because I am blind to my own typos. Thanks Chris.