misshepeshu: (Default)
There's a difference between believing in god (or gods, or the supernatural, or Eternal Love, or whatever the term you want to use for the divine), being religious, and being a religionist.

Belief in the divine is pretty self-explanatory. You can believe in the divine without being religious.

Being religious entails using ritual (think: prayer, church-going, reading a book of scriptures) to help you get closer to the god(s) you believe in.

Being a religionist is different. Being a religionist entails worshipping the religion itself. Being a religionist means using the trappings of religion, not as a means of getting closer to the divine, but as a means of explaining and enforcing a worldview that you are utterly convinced is right, and that everybody else should adhere to as well (because dammitall, it's so right). Religionists find empowerment in the way their religion enforces their worldview, but more than that, religionists seek to exert that power on people who don't believe similarly.

. . . that's all I have at the moment.

And now: back to reviewing tort law. First final is this Friday. Cry.
misshepeshu: (Default)
I haven't been able to talk much about the Virginia Tech massacre. Some tragedies are too big for my mind to wrap around; all that registers at first is numbness, and my brain refuses to think about it. Then a few days later, the wave engulfs me, and it's all I can think about.

The wave finally hit me this morning. I was reading all the news stories I could find before I had to head to work, shaking a little from I-don't-know-what--grief? anger? shock?--and all the way during my drive, I couldn't stop thinking about what had happened. Specifically, what had made Cho Seung-Hui snap. I still can't stop thinking about it. There will likely never be a satisfactory answer to this, which doesn't mean my brain still won't make the attempt.

But the one thing that my mind can wrap around and react to meaningfully is the way the media has latched onto his writings, and the way they're attempting to present Cho's work as some sort of reliable barometer for his bugfuck insane homicidal rage. In fact, some of his work was apparently so disturbing, Lucinda Roy, one of his professors, brought them to the attention of the police.

Roy was so disturbed by them she went to the police and counselors "and everywhere else, and they would say, but there's nothing explicit here. He's not actually saying he's going to kill someone."

"The threats seemed to be underneath the surface," she said. "They were not explicit and that was the difficulty the police had."

"My argument was that he seemed so disturbed that we needed to do something about this," Roy said.

You know what? Even knowing what happened, I think the police did the right thing in letting Cho go. Hindsight: what a bitch.

Look, many people have morbid imaginations. You want to talk sick, wrong imaginations? When I was a child, I used to think up and write horror stories all the time. Some of them involved thinly-disguised people I didn't like biting it in particularly nasty ways. Some of these people were even family members and classmates. Nowadays, I still enjoy coming up with and writing really violent fiction, but I've completely outgrown my need to take out my resentment and aggression on real-life people disguised in a fictional setting. I did what I did back then as a proxy for agency, which is no longer quite the problem for me as a 29-year-old the way it was when I was 9. Once I had more power over my life and the directions I wanted it to go, I didn't need to resort to fiction.

Here's the key point: fiction provides a safe haven for lashing out. Teenagers are especially notorious for coming up with violent, tragic stories and poems, and there's a good reason for that.

All of this is a long-winded way to say: Cho's writing did not provide anything even close to reliable indicators of what awaited the students and professors at Virginia Tech on Monday. The vast majority of people who come up with terribly-written blood-drenched pieces of work don't go on to become mass murderers.

Which is why the connections CNN and other news outlets are trying to make between Cho's work and his killing rampage make me squirm like an earthworm a hot sidewalk. The implication seems to be "Let's look into somebody's fantasy lives and attempt to convict them BEFORE they do anything." In fact, it's distinctly Minority Report-ish, only instead of the Department of Pre-Crime, it's the Department for the Analysis of Poorly-Written Angst-Ridden Violent Fiction.

I have a bad, bad feeling that overzealous administrators will seize on this completely meaningless indicator and start scrutinizing students' work for so-called danger signs--more than they do already. Yes, Cho wrote a lot of disturbingly violent fiction. And yes, some dangerously deranged people indulge in similar sorts of writing. That's not indicative of murderous tendencies. Just because the pavement's wet isn't a sign that it rained, capisce? Other things, like the stalking complaints, were probably better (but not by ANY means conclusive) indicators that something was seriously wrong with Cho. About all you can conclude his body of work is that he was an immature, angry 23-year-old student, and wrote like one. Yes, the tragedy is awful; yes, we want to prevent another one, if we reasonably can. However, focusing on irrelevancies like some motherfucking play he wrote a while back about attempting to kill a sexually abusive stepfather does little to further our understanding. His works are made eerie, significant and prescient only by the nature of what we know now.
misshepeshu: (Scheming face)
To Wit: The more annoying I find a band's appearance, the more I'll love their music.

To be even more specific: the more annoying their hair, the higher the odds I'll like what they sound like.
misshepeshu: (Behold the Kitty!)

It's funny because it's true. It ties in to a lot of things I've observed, such as pulp detective, porn and horror novels being kitschy and cool while pulp romance novels aren't. However, this strip ignores the cultural cachet of Hello Kitty, Rainbow Brite and the Care Bears, though the last may be more of a gender-neutral phenomenon than I give it credit for.

How many boys in the audience owned Care Bear dolls?
misshepeshu: (Mew?)
That was a pretty interesting exercise. I was all braced for "GOOD GOD YOUR SINK IS PERPETUALLY FILTHY YOU H0R" and "You need to stop making time commitments you can't really keep" types of comments, but they weren't forthcoming. (Not that I got a whole lot of comments for this meme; YOU GUYS MUST NOT LOVE ME OR SOMETHING, CRY.) In fact, in all the journals where I've seen this anonymeme (which have been, uhhh, four total), the responses have been overwhelmingly nice--heavier on the secret love and longing than "I can't stand THIS about you" sorts of comments.

Which reaffirms my faith in humanity, or something. But that's probably because I haven't seen any trainwrecky anonymeme threads yet, of which I gather there's been a few, based on references to such on [livejournal.com profile] ibnfirnas's journal.

Hanyway, some numbers, because I'm in a numbering sort of a mood:

Total comments I left on other people's anonymemes: 3

Number of anonymous comments I left: 2

Number of anonymous comments on my post whose authors I pretty much recognized right off the bat: 2 (*waves to D. and K., and hopes K. doesn't keel over from mortification*)

Number of anonymous comments on other people's posts whose authors I pretty much recognized right off the bat: About 3. Mayyybe 4.

Suspense level: Moderate--I give somebody hope? INTRIGUING.

Urge to e-mail everyone I know on my friendslist who might write something like that about me: Manageable.

p.s. IP logging still off, and anonymous commenting still enabled. In case you want to comment anonymously on my comments about the anonymous comments on the anonymous comment meme.
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
Reading this article on Pharyngula today started me thinking about religion in the classrooms and bringing God up in science classes, especially biology.

I really don't understand why there was ever a controversy to begin with. I'm pretty sure I'm stating the obvious when I say that religion and mentions of deities in general should be kept of the science classroom because they're inherently unscientific and therefore are completely irrelevant to the class. If one allows religion into the science classroom, then one might as well teach deconstruction theory during biology, or Keynesian economics during physics, or knitting during chemistry.

In short: Parsimony is one of the cornerstones of science, dammit, and throwing God into a theory isn't parsimonious.

And honestly, if I were religious and/or believed in God, I'd be offended at the way Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates use the Almighty as some sort of all-purpose intellectual spackle: "We have NO IDEA how this happened, ergo Goddunnit!" It's lazy, and it completely misses the point of the scientific method.

I'd love to rant about this in more detail, but egad, I have so much work to catch up on, and people smarter and more articulate than I have done so plenty of times already, I'm sure.

(Oh, who am I kidding? I wrote this whole thing just so I could use the phrase "all-purpose intellectual spackle.")
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
Via Pharyngula, PETA has a bee in their bonnet (hur hur) about a study involving gay sheep, and in the process, use some pretty nasty invective. A more accurate and much less hysterical explanation for what Dr. Roselli is trying to do can be found at The Next Hurrah.

For what it's worth, though I think PETA is jumping to some pretty hasty conclusions--they must've dumped a gallon of KY on that slope, it's so goddamn slippery--I do think that it's a logical extension of the implications of the research. If scientists do manage to find biological bases for homosexuality, and if physiological therapy can actively switch somebody's sexual orientation...well, I can imagine some of the extremists pushing for a "cure," if the cultural environment will allow it. (This doesn't make sense to me, of course; in my opinion, a cure for homogaiety is about as sensible as trying to cure, say, blue eyes, or the ability to raise one eyebrow higher than the other.) However, I'm somewhat optimistic; we've been moving away from the whole "homosexuality is a disease" viewpoint for a while now, even though we still have a long, long way to go.

In the meanwhile, bisexual sheep are largely ignored, and treated as indiscriminately slutty and/or indecisive about whether they're male- or female-oriented. The whores.
misshepeshu: (Default)
My sister forwarded me this write-up in the International Herald Tribune about the clash between Islam and secularism in Malaysia.

My stomach sank as I read it. I hope that the writer got some things wrong, such as female police officers regardless of religion being required to wear a head scarf during official functions, but my gut feeling is that he probably got it right.

A landmark in this conflict between Islam and secularism is the case of Lina Joy, a Muslim who converted to Christianity. The Malaysian government has refused to recognize her apostasy. There's been quite a bit of hysteria over her case, and the government has banned public debate over it--which strikes me as an incredibly bad idea, but many things the Malaysian government does are.

To quote from the article:

The context of the tensions in the Lina Joy case is a Muslim community that says it feels under siege and threatened by a thriving evangelical Christian movement. Newspapers cite wild estimates of mass conversions if Lina Joy wins her case and call for a strengthening of religious law.

This attitude puzzles me, to be honest. If so many people are straining to leave Islam (and I sincerely doubt there are), why attempt to keep them there by judicial fiat? Surely it's better for people to remain Muslim because they sincerely believe, not because they're afraid of the legal consequences if they don't toe the line. The analogy that springs to mind is preventing a spouse who's cheating from leaving the house instead of making a clean break. It's abusive and counter-productive.

I'm also puzzled--and infuriated--by the fear of dissent and new ideas. Disallowing public debate and laws such as the one forbidding others from evangelizing to Muslims make Islam look weak, as if it needs all these special protections to flourish, or as if Muslims are so feeble-minded that they could be driven to apostasy merely by being exposed to different viewpoints. This lack of faith in Islam by the most faithful of Muslims speaks volumes about what they really think of their religion, I think.
misshepeshu: (DIEINAFIRE!)
Y'all are familiar with the various instances of pharmacists refusing to fill patients' prescriptions of the morning after pill and birth control pills, right? Some pharmacists even went as far as to refuse to transfer the prescription.

A while back, on the Heated Debate tribe in Tribe.net, we debated this issue. Was a pharmacist obligated to provide a prescribed medication to a person, even if it ran counter to their moral beliefs?

A relatively large number of people thought it was no big deal, and that the pharmacist shouldn't have to fill the scrip. This appalled me on several levels, and I couldn't help but think that people's laissez-faire attitude towards this was largely informed by the type of medication being dispensed. Hey, it's just birth control pills, right? Just a buncha harlots wanting to fuck without paying the consequences.

To which I say: well, yeah, and that's the harlot's business, and none of the pharmacist's. But that's ignoring all the other conditions for which the birth control pill is prescribed. I was on BC for many years because of oligomenorrhea, for example--I wouldn't get my period for a year or two, and then when it arrived, I'd bleed for a month, sometimes two. Not fun. A friend of mine was prescribed the pill because it helped with her debilitating menstrual cramps, and missing a dose made her ill, so getting her prescription filled on time was definitely an issue.

But aside from that, allowing conscientious objection presented real problems to people in small towns with only one pharmacy. If the one pharmacy refused to fill the scrip, people would sometimes be forced to travel long distances to get it filled, and sometimes, health conditions, work schedules and/or lack of funds made this sort of travel impractical, so the prescription would be filled late, if at all.

In short, allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions was basically taking the personal health decisions out of the patients' (and the doctors') hands and putting them more-or-less squarely in the pharmacist's. And hell, most of the time, we're not even necessarily talking about health--we're talking moral objections, here. By giving the pharmacists the freedom to choose which medications to dispense and which ones not to, the patient's ability to make healthcare decisions are infringed upon.

(I also personally think that any pharmacists stupid enough to seriously believe that birth control and Plan B are abortifacients deserve to have their licenses yanked, because goddamn, what kind of crappy biology and biochemistry classes did they take?)

I also think this policy sets incredibly bad precedent. What if it weren't birth control at stake? Let's say there's a health nut pharmacist, and one day an overweight guy walks up to the counter to fill a prescription for, say, cholestrol-lowering medication. The pharmacist could, conceivably, offer a moral objection to this: clearly, if this man exercised more and ate a reasonable quantity of healthy food, he wouldn't need these medications. That he would have such an easy out was repugnant to the pharmacist; if he wanted to eat his own weight in Twinkies, then by God he should have to pay the consequences. No Lipitor for you, one year!

My example was pshawed as an example of slippery slope reasoning.

Then today, I read about a pharmacist who refused to fill somebody's post-surgery Vicodin prescription, subtituting it instead with a medication containing codeine which, surprise surprise, the patient was allergic to. Luckily, the patient spotted the codeine and sent it back with an explanation, but the pharmacy still refused to dispense the Vicodin until they heard from her doctor and confirmed her codeine allergy. Unfortunately, by the time the whole rigamarole was played out, the doctor's office was closed, and the woman had to make do with aspirin the whole night.

I don't think my slope was all that slippery after all.

Abel Pharmboy, a pharmacy professor with a PhD in pharmacology has more words on this issue, all of them worth reading. I think he has it right: because of their unique position, pharmacists need to put the welfare of the patients ahead of their own values system. If the prescription is valid, they need to fill it. Otherwise, you get a system in which a pharmacist can conceivably refuse to fill prescriptions because they don't believe in opioid usage, or because they think birth control pills cause abortions, or because overweight people with high cholesterol offend their health nut sensibilities. Allowing some pharmacists to stand in judgement of somebody's healthcare choices is an incredibly bad idea--especially when some of them don't display signs of ominiscience so much as nulliscience.
misshepeshu: (Kitten claws)
Photographer takes candy from babies, creates art from pictures of reactions.

I'm not sure what it says about me that I found most of the pictures amusing rather than upsetting. I think part of it's knowing the reason why they're crying, and part of it's the fact that they're obviously clean, well-fed, cared-for kids getting their pictures taken in a studio somewhere in California. I mean, c'mon. The kids weren't beaten--they just had a lollipop taken away from them. Chrissakes, people. By ANY standard, if that's the worst thing the kid cries about all day, the kid's having a great fucking day.

Some people, however, have become so indignant over Greenberg's work that they've done some pretty tasteless things, like call her "sociopathic publicity whore" and "cunt," and perhaps worst of all, use multiple exclamation marks to indicate how very, very disgusted they are with the artist, because as everybody knows, mo' exclamation points = mo' betta.

(Link courtesy of Kate Rothwell.)

This disproportionate ire is symptomatic of the way certain cultures have put children on this weird pedestal. "Think of the children!" exemplifies the desire to simultaneously elevate and insulate our kidlets from, well, everything. Look, there's minor adversity, and then there's abuse. In fact, here's a quick LJ poll to see if you're able to differentiate between minor adversity vs. abuse:

[Poll #779720]

Now, mind you, I'm not saying that what Greenberg's doing is great art, or that her methods are completely kosher. There's something a bit squidgy about the fact that she's making kids cry in a controlled setting and then taking the pictures. The photos are certainly gorgeous, but I don't think they're eliciting in me the reaction she intended. Instead of thinking "Oh, look at the pain and suffering of the wee 'uns! O the trenchant commentary on our political situation and the morally retarded policies of George W. Bush!!!!" I'm thinking "These kids are awfully photogenic and awfully hilarious."

And frankly, given the stated purpose of the exhibit (to provide commentary on the current political landscape or some shit like that) I can't help but think that this exhibit would've been a lot more effective if the photographer had, y'know, travelled to places where the kids are crying over things much, much bigger than a freakin' lollipop, like the loss of a parent, or a home, or a limb. God knows there are more than enough children in this world who are crying over things a whole hell of a lot more serious than the loss of some candy.

(It might be interesting to divorce pictures of crying children from context and seeing if people can tell the difference between a child crying over a lollipop vs. a child crying over something much more serious.)

(Am I being exceptionally cold-blooded, even for me, to suggest this sort of experiment?)

On the other hand, presenting grief over a lost lollipop as a legitimate comparison to much more serious suffering provides some pretty sharp (if unintentional) commentary on the American conception of pain and suffering. Consumer-licious!
misshepeshu: (Kitten claws)
Earlier today, I talked to Jeff, the resident Autodesk Inventor guru at this here place, for just about an hour. We see eye to eye on a lot of things, and our temperaments and senses of humor match up very well, so we greatly enjoy each other's company whenever I drop by his office. (He has fairly severe MS and is completely wheelchair-bound, whereas I work in an office at the top of a long, steep staircase.) Jeff, however, is a very devout Christian (which isn't something I have an issue with) and an avid Creationist (which I do have an issue with).

We eventually got to the topic of Socratic wisdom, and he told me how three of his doctors, an eye surgeon, a neurologist and an orthopedic surgeon, after extensive study of the human body and awed at the vastness of their ignorance despite the prodigious amount of information they'd already amassed, are convinced that they see the hand of a divine Creator.

I tried to point out that this was the classic God of the Gaps fallacy, and also brought up examples of everyday things that stumped people for the longest time and were thought to be unexplainable or supernatural in origin--combustion and electricity were the two I used (to be honest, I like talking about the former because "phlogiston" is one of my favorite words). I also pointed out that the scientific method is very, very young, and key concepts like falsifiability are even younger. Not only that, but scientific progress can often depend on the sophistication of equipment at the scientists' disposal; quantum mechanics is a relatively new field because the instruments that can detect, manipulate and measure sub-atomic particles were only recently invented and put into production.

Jeff just shook his head and said "Well, it's just interesting, that's all" and started talking about how relativity and quantum mechanics are incompatible.

And that's when I realized that invoking the God of the Gaps requires monumental arrogance--an arrogance not predicated on the person's belief in his own prowess, but an arrogance based on the belief that we know all that there is to know already, and that the depths of the unexplained can only be illumined by the light of divine agency.

This belief has been proven false over and over and over again, and I don't know why people insist on proclaiming the End of History once every generation. You think we'd learn, but nope, people love to jump on that intellectual treadmill and work it for all they're worth. The fact of the matter is, we have barely begun to scratch the surface of what we know about the world and the universe. For (a purely metaphorical) God's sake, we've only been at this enterprise for a few hundred years. Not so very long ago, people didn't know about ovaries, for cry-eye, and even more recently, people didn't know about oxygen, or magnetic fields, or quarks.

Compared to the vastness of the data out there for us to discover and unlock, our knowledge is indeed puny. My knowledge of this knowledge is even punier. This I can't deny. But I refuse to invoke the God of the Gaps to cover human ignorance.
misshepeshu: (COLBERT RLY?)
Here's another interesting article on the so-called boy crisis in education: "Study Casts Doubt On the 'Boy Crisis'"

A pertinent quote:

"The real story is not bad news about boys doing worse," the report says, "it's good news about girls doing better.

Some interesting numbers, also pulled from the article:

According to the report, reading achievement by 9-year-old boys increased 15 points on a 500-point scale between 1971 and 2004, and girls that age increased seven points, remaining five points ahead of boys. Reading achievement for 13-year-olds improved four points for boys and three points for girls, with girls 10 points ahead. Among 17-year-olds, there was almost no change in reading achievement, with girls up one point, boys down one point and girls 14 points ahead.

In mathematics achievement between 1973 and 2004, 9-year-old boys gained 25 points and girls gained 20 points, with boys ending up three points ahead. Thirteen-year-old boys increased 18 points and girls 12 points, with boys three points ahead. Among 17-year-olds, boys lost one point, girls gained four and boys were three points ahead.

I should probably read the report for myself before trying to talk any more about it.
misshepeshu: (Kitten claws)
PZ Myers has perfectly expressed some thoughts that have been swimming in my head for years regarding the faith/science divide. People tiptoe around religious tenets as if it were absolutely sacrosanct, even when they prove to be just plain factually wrong. Allowing religious belief to trump science, the way many people have over and over again when trying to debate Intelligent Design vs. evolutionary theory, is giving mythological beliefs the same weight as rational thinking, empirical proof and replicable results. Giving the thumper who claims the Bible is an accurate document of creation a free pass simply because it's his religious belief and we're good little liberals who must be tolerant of all viewpoints strikes me as implicitly endorsing the thumper's (completely wrong and wrong-headed) views.

I want to talk some more about the discourse on atheism and how atheists are somehow viewed as freaks of nature when their position is reasonable and logical, but my head hurts. Maybe more later, maybe not.
misshepeshu: (COLBERT RLY?)
I've gotten into debates with masculists before. If you're not familiar with the wackier branches of this movement, some masculists hold the view that feminism has gone too far and that men are now being systematically oppressed. They cite several different things as evidence of this fact, such as the fact that more women initiate divorces than men, that women more frequently receive custody of their children, and (one of their favorite drums to bang) the so-called Boy Crisis, which claims that the education system has been feminized to such an extent that boys no longer do well in it, as evidenced by higher rates of high school graduation and university enrollment for girls.

The divorce and custody issues are entwined, and I actually looked the numbers up a little while ago. Women file for divorce more often than men because filing first can apparently impact custody issues, and it seems that women are more likely to want custody of the children--and given that some women divorce men because they perceive them as being distant, inattentive fathers and husbands, this is perhaps not too surprising.

The Boy Crisis was a bit harder to debate. I looked up some primary research, and from what I saw, there was indeed proof that boys received more negative attention than girls in classrooms--but on the flip side, boys received more positive attention as well. Boys seemed to receive more attention, period. But some of the numbers cited were fairly concrete, such as higher rates of university enrollment and graduation for girls vs. boys. It can certainly be argued that for the first time ever, girls are allowed to compete head-to-head with boys in academics, and it seems that girls seem to do a bit better than boys when it comes to certain measures of being a good student, such as sitting still for extended periods of time. But the discrepancies cited seemed huge. Were boys getting short shrift? I had a gut feeling that they weren't, but what the hell do I know?

But Smart Bitch regular Robin pointed to this recent Washington Post article, "The Myth of the Boy Crisis," and if these two writers are correct and not playing fast and loose with the numbers, the differences seem to be split more along racial and economic class lines instead of gender lines. To quote from the article:

The alarming statistics on which the notion of a crisis is based are rarely broken out by race or class. When they are, the whole picture changes. It becomes clear that if there is a crisis, it's among inner-city and rural boys. White suburban boys aren't significantly touched by it. On average, they are not dropping out of school, avoiding college or lacking in verbal skills. Although we have been hearing that boys are virtually disappearing from college classrooms, the truth is that among whites, the gender composition of colleges is pretty balanced: 51 percent female and 49 percent male, according to the National Education Association. In Ivy League colleges, men still outnumber women.

Yeah, I know: poor kids do less well in school than middle-class and rich kids. SHOCK! HORROR! NEWS AT ELEVEN!

It's nice to see the authors systematically debunk some of the numbers bandied about regarding the Boy Crisis. The big gap between rural/innercity boys and girls is still real, but it appears that it might be a function of shitty schooling systems, period, than a biased educational system per se.
misshepeshu: (DIEINAFIRE!)
Kate Rothwell, more than any other blogger I read, makes me want to hug her after I read one of her entries. She's charming and funny and kinda cranky sometimes and just really, really adorable. (She'd probably object to my characterization of her.) Anyway, her Thursday 13 yesterday was pretty awesome: Thursday Thirteen Reasons I'm Personally Threatened by Gay Marriage.

That entry of Kate's had a link to a Baptist numbnut's detailed list of why Gay Marriage Will Ruin America and Allow Satan To Enter Your Children's Crotches. Now, shooting down a dimwitted thumper's arguments isn't particularly hard to do, yet I feel compelled to do it, anyway. Must be because I'm bored at work, or something. *koff* So, here goes: )
misshepeshu: (COLBERT RLY?)
Sigh of relief when I saw this headline: "Senate blocks same-sex marriage ban." I knew the probability of this amendment actually passing was pretty damn small, but it would've been worrying indeed if it had received the 60 votes needed to move the amendment along.

(I am depressed, however, at how state constitutions are successfully being amended one at a time.)

This quote from Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, made me snort-laugh: "We're making progress, and we're not going to stop until marriage between a man and a woman is protected."

Right. Without this amendment, rampaging hordes of fags and dykes are going to storm churches and county offices across the country and put straight couples in headlocks until the men agree to take it up the ass, the women agree to wear only Birkenstocks and flannel from here on out, and everybody swears to memorize every Sondheim musical and Indigo Girls album ever produced. And needless to say, all straight couples will be gay-married by lottery. It'll be chaos, I tell you. CHAOS.
misshepeshu: (Kitten claws)
Below are a series of interesting articles about faces and sexual attraction, all culled from the comments section of today's discussion on SBTB:

Women like girly men better when we're on the rag.

Men like girly men better when we're getting about to get on the rag.

Facial prejudices.

Chicks dig big, manly...vocal chords.

Especially before we're about to go on the rag.

And apparently, regulating our on-the-ragginess can change our mate preferences, too.

There's some interesting information in those pieces, but a lot of the conclusions drawn (at least, as reported by the BBC) are a bit too sweeping for my comfort. Some of the research also seems to contradict one another. For example, from the research about how birth control pills affect attraction:

They found those taking the pill were more likely to choose macho men, and to rate men with more feminine, softer physical features as a turn off.

However, the researchers say it is these men who tend to be more sensitive, and more likely to making trustworthy and faithful husbands.

They proved more popular among women not taking the pill who took part in the study.

Blocked ovulation

The researchers believe that the key may be the fact the taking the pill blocks the natural process of ovulation.

As women who take the pill cannot become pregnant, they are sub-consciously attracted to sexy, macho men, rather than to men who are most likely to make a sensible long-term mate.

And then in the article about how women who are ovulating prefer macho men:

Women are attracted to more masculine-looking men at the most fertile time of their menstrual cycle, psychologists have shown.

During the less fertile times, they choose men with more feminine-looking faces. These are seen as kinder and more co-operative, but less strong and healthy genetically.

A controversial implication of the new research is that, in evolutionary terms, it is natural for a woman to be unfaithful in order to secure both the best genes and the best carer for her children.

This is because a less masculine-looking man may be a better long-term partner, but the strongest, healthiest children would be produced by a quick fling with a more masculine-looking man.

OK, look, you can't really have it both ways: ovulating women want to fuck macho men because of their OMG good genes that the women want to pass on to the (potential) sproglets, and non-ovulating women want men who are caring and nurturing, but women who are on the pill (and therefore not ovulating) apparently like to fuck macho men as well because...they're unable to make good long-term mate choices??

I'm not arguing that these differences aren't real, but there seems to be some tricky dickery going on here, with researchers providing conclusions based on cultural prejudices. "This one here wants good genes for her kids, and this one, here, just wants to get laid."

Was birth control the only factor that could explain the women's inverted preferences? I don't have access to the studies, but I'd be interested in looking at the women's age, education level, upbringing, political affiliation, reasons why they are or aren't on birth control and income, all of which can conceivably impact attraction and mate choice. I mean, really, if women get on BC pills because they're looking to get laid without becoming pregnant, and these sorts of women tend to prefer macho men for whatever reason, then we might very well see the differences the researchers found--but then the BC pill becomes a side-issue. What I want to know is, do women who go off hormonal BC methods show the same preferences once they're off 'em? What about women who switch from hormonal to non-hormonal BC methods, and women who switch from hormonal to no birth control at all, or non-hormonal birth control to no birth control?

And this bit from the "men are more suspicious of macho men when their women are ovulating" article also bothered me:

"Whether they consciously know it or not, women do tend to have affairs with dominant males during their most fertile phase.

"That's independent of whether they want to get pregnant or not."

That may be true, but this is assuming a population of women who choose to have affairs, yes? How common is infidelity, and is the sample size big enough so that women who cheat are somehow representative of women in general? And how do we know that these women don't share some other sort of quirk which may explain why these macho men are preferred?

I'm somewhat bothered by how very reductionist these studies are, and how some of them seem to consistently conflate physical beauty with sexual attraction with mate selection. Look, just because somebody's pretty doesn't mean I want to fuck him, and just because I want to fuck somebody doesn't mean I want to be with him forever. Also, these studies strip the personality dynamic out of the equation entirely, when I'm not sure that's feasible.

However, some of the information resulting from these studies, such as what are considered masculine vs. femine faces, and introverted vs. extroverted faces, is very interesting.
misshepeshu: (DIEINAFIRE!)
By pressing down a special key, it plays a little melody.


I'll tell you what. You know it. )
misshepeshu: (Default)
I've been insulated from the reactions of people-at-large to my attempts to Google bomb Bill Napoli, largely because I've been tracking what's been going on at Smart Bitches. And OF COURSE the reactions there are going to be favorable. First of all, the people who visit the site are more likely to share my sense of humor (which indeed veers towards the assholish end of the spectrum) and find this sort of thing funny. Second of all, only people who have picked up the ball and run with it are posting comments, which in turn filters out a lot of negative reactions. And third of all...eh. There's no third that I can think of.

Reading the reactions at the Damn Portlanders community has been eye-opening. Just about everyone there thinks it's pointless, sophomoric and destructive. There are better avenues of reacting to the abortion ban and Napoli's dickheadedness, they argue. Volunteer! Write editorials! Etc.

I will be the first to say that doing something concrete is vastly more helpful than helping me Google bomb the shit out of this shit. And HELL YES volunteer, and give money, and write long letters to the editor. But here are the reasons why I wanted to do what I did:

1. I wanted the issue to have visibility. Sarah and I reach a lot of readers every day. Not nearly along the lines of, say, Atrios or Daily Kos, or even Amalah or Dooce, but we have a pretty decent-sized readership. A readership that's not necessarily interested or engaged in the political, so it's kind of nice that I'm able to very, very occasionally do this sort of thing. (The last time we had a politics bitchfight at SBTB was over Katrina. Oh my, that was fun times.)

2. I needed a schtick, a hook, a way to make the comments really, really memorable and not let Napoli fucking get away with this, if I possibly can. I can't vote, I don't live in South Dakota, I only have so much money I can give to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, my grasp of constitutional law is not so much tenuous as non-existent (though it's getting a bit better every day the more I read and discuss issues with Jay), so I'm trying to do what Dan Savage did: memorialize an asshole by associating the asshole's name with something unpleasant. And keep in mind, Savage had to solicit a new definition for Santorum. Napoli's definition is based entirely on his own words.

3. I feel a pretty strong punitive urge towards Napoli. I don't believe in capital or corporal punishment, but I am not averse to using the power of shame and humiliation. This is pretty minor in the scheme of things, but it's something.

But! Everyone who views this as nothing better than a sophomoric prank--well, they have a point, too. What can I say? I delight in being puerile. I'm a dork--a largely unrepentant one. I can only hope I'm a dork who has outraged some people into thinking about taking action and inspired others to actually take action, like donating money to worthy causes, or reading up on case laws pertaining to reproductive freedom, or [insert Worthy Action of Your Choice].

But even if nothing comes of this, I'm petty enough to admit that having Bill Napoli be connected to the term "hella rape" is still pretty fucking sweet, and I'll take what I can get.
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
About six years ago, researchers in Princeton apparently demonstrated the possibility of travel at superluminal speeds. Very roughly speaking, a pulse of laser light was shone through some cesium vapor and left the chamber before it finished entering.

What happened next demonstrates what typically happens when Freaky Science is reported.

Here's how it was reported in the popular press, with the Freaky Bits distorted and blown out of proportion.

Here's how the news story was co-opted by an ideologue with some science training, then distorted even further so it could be used to bolster his religious convictions.

And here's where somebody who actually knows what he's talking about explains everything in detail, without distortion of Freaky Bits (which are plenty freaky, but then again, I'm easily impressed).

This is nothing new, of course. One of the more recent (and egregious) examples of this sort of thing happened with quantum entanglement when researchers confirmed it was real. Many, many dipshits immediately latched onto it as proof of precognition, superluminal travel and/or the existence of God, among other things.

One study, three different reports from three viewpoints with three different agendas. There's a lesson in there somewhere. Unfortunately, my brain has currently been evicted in favor of copious amounts of warm snot.

Speaking of which: Time to go see the doctor. Whee!


misshepeshu: (Default)

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