Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Male privilege again

Disclaimer: I have no idea who I'm going to vote for in the US Presidential election. I may well take my default position: I'd be a better president than either candidate, so I'm writing in my own name.

However, the particular forms of attack from Mr. Obama's supporters on those of Ms. Clinton's supporters who vociferously object to Mr. Obama's candidacy (some of them even asserting they might vote for Mr. McCain) sure look like patriarchy to me. Accusations that the Clinton supporters are being emotional, taking it personally, are bitter and selfish...hmm, smells like male privilege to me. Dancing around the issue differences, ignoring claims that it feels just like when a woman trains lots of younger men who then get promoted over her head to higher salaries and more responsibility than she ever gets, and serious personal insults (they're stupid, they're not really Democrats); it all frames quite easily as the same old he-man woman-hating boys' club.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Not my passion

Politics are, generally, not my passion, and Megan McArdle nails it when she explains why:

I'll probably vote for Obama, but not with any expectation that I'll like the result very much. I am not excited about this election. I do not believe that my vote is going to immanentize the eschaton. I do not think that I am engaged in a titanic battle, in which the forces of good must beat back the cosmic evil that threatens to engulf us all. I think I'm deciding which of two politicians to hand a lot of power I don't want either of them to have.

It should be possible to debate the issues in this election at a level above "My guy's awesome and your guy is a big fat doody-head". But it doesn't seem to be. I find this profoundly depressing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

US Presidential election

I am currently undecided in the US presidential election. I would have voted for Ms. Clinton, given the chance, but that hasn't worked out to be an option. As a result, a lot of things might affect my vote.

Choice of veep is one of them. I'm no fan of either Mr. Obama or Mr. McCain; I'm not subject to the fantasy that the vice president they pick tells anything important about how they will govern, or that the veep will significantly affect policy during the administration. What it will tell me is whether either of them wants my vote. They don't really need *my* vote--it's only the one vote after all. But do they care about whether they appeal to me as a candidate? Will they suck up to me? That matters to me.

They have to know I exist to suck up to me, and that information will ultimately inform their decisionmaking somehow.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beautiful frivolity

Some of my friends (and I'm looking at you, Pat) will coo over (but probably not cough up the high price of) these lovely fairy tutus. If you poke around that site they also have wands and wings. It's a terrific costuming site.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Knowledge: useful, interesting, and fun.

From Nicola Griffith's blog, a quote about a story published in the New Scientist:

"For the first time in history there is now scientific evidence that reading fiction has psychological benefits," writes Keith Oatley in New Scientist. Oatley is a professor of psychology and the leader of the Toronto team. He is also an award-winning novelist (The Case of Emily V.). On the phone from the University of Toronto, he explains that reading fiction appears to stimulate parts of the brain that govern empathy. "What you're doing when you're reading fiction is you're allowing yourself to become another person for a short period of time ... It loosens up your personality, your rigidities."

Knowing fandom as I do, I shudder at what some people might be like without the empathy stimulation and loosening of rigidities that has come from reading fiction. Actually, I wonder if they've read *any* fiction.

At GirlHacker's Random Log, a link to a story about the 2008 Olympic medals. They have jade rings on the back!

From Funfurde, unfolding chairs. No, really. They unfold into a flat panel that can be hung on the wall as art. Of course, if you can afford these, why do you need chairs that store easily? Just buy more space.

On health and weight

The Speculist discusses health and weight in the context of a pill that helps you retain the benefits of weight loss without staying on the food and exercise program that helped you attain it.

In study after study over the course of the past century, the number of clinical trial subjects who have kept more than 40 pounds off for a period of five or more years is vanishingly rare. The number that's thrown around on Dean's World is 0.1%, although I haven't seen where Dean specifically raised this number, only where people arguing with him have. So if we can name people who have met the criteria -- Jared comes to mind -- we have only found an example of that 0.1% of the population for whom diet and exercise is an effective long-term obesity cure. Likewise, the participants in the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) study were asked to participate if they had already achieved a certain level of long-term weight loss -- it's just another example of this same selection bias.

It's like "proving" that the lottery is a smart bet because somebody won!

And in the comments, jaed makes a good point about how hard it is to accept scientific evidence when it contradicts our common sense:

I wondered for a long time why, in the face of much data indicating that starvation dieting, alone or in combination with exercise, fails to permanently change body shape, we still have people chirping "All you have to do is eat less and move more, and the pounds will melt away like magic!" every time this subject comes up. I finally decided it's because people overgeneralize from their own experience.

Because [the common wisdom is that] everyone naturally has the same body type, and deviations must be caused by differences in eating and exercise levels.

Written out like that, the fallacy is pretty obvious. But people still stick to it. There's an ideal shape, and if you fall short of it, it's All Your Fault, and we will keep saying that until you admit you're a bad fatty and repent - preferably by limiting your food intake to the point of causing yourself permanent metabolic damage. Whereupon we will announce that you have "failed". Makes me berserk, that kind of ugly thinking.

Meanwhile, the result of this mindset that you can change your body type by sheer force of will is:

- Fat people feel perpetually guilty, shamed, and afraid. They try to do the impossible (change their fundamental body shape) and feel like weak-willed failures when it predictably doesn't work.

- Thin people feel like they have nothing to worry about healthwise, even if they eat gak and never exercise. They're thin. And that means they're healthy, right?

- People who exercise, feel better, and obtain health benefits but don't lose a lot of weight feel as though they might as well not bother - after all, thin is healthy, and all this exercise isn't making them thin, so it can't possibly have a good effect on their health, right? [...]

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Obama Salute

I only today saw a drawing of the Obama salute. First thing I thought of? You're disarmed (no gun in those hands) and easy to restrain. Just pop the cuffs on, or tie those two wrists together, and we're set!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Edwards story

The Ferrett writes about the recent scandal: John Edwards, who has run for president a couple of times now as the moral arm of the Democrats, had an affair with another woman during the time that his wife has had cancer. He (the Ferrett) thinks the most important thing about this story is Edwards' misrepresentation of himself:

So you know what? There's this sword over here that he lived by and died by. If you're going to tout your morals as one of your best selling points, then when you get called on that? Nobody's fault but your own. Yes, it's a lot harder to run on the issues, and I wish more people could manage it... But when you play the "VOTE FOR ME 'CAUSE I'M ALMOST AS MORAL AS THE POPE!" card, then don't be surprised when someone trumps that play with "NO YOU'RE NOT."

The most important thing about the Edwards story is that it's just like all the others. Politicians have to pretend to be a certain way in order to get elected. They have to pretend to be monogamous, they have to pretend to be against special interests and pork projects, and they have to pretend they're going to change things (even conservatives).

The question I find more interesting is what conclusions can we draw about the pundits, the campaign-runners, and the electorate given this requirement to pretend? Hypocrisy runs rampant through US culture--not that I think that's a bad thing, just something important that is often overlooked and underestimated, especially by the progressives who are treating it as the greatest sin against the New Religion of being true to oneself. If you can't abide by the rules you've set, then you ought to admit that it's time to change the rules! is their motto; no empathy or understanding for the value of setting a goal and standard of behavior even if individually one doesn't meet it.

I am not surprised at deception from candidates: we beg them for it. We insist upon it. We punish them for honesty: who among them, then, would dare to be honest? How can they do the necessary work they believe in (and I believe they do believe in it, they believe they can effect important change for this country only by entering political office) if we won't elect them unless they lie, and then harangue and deride them for it when they're caught? Oh, some of the derision and disdain is because of the behaviors they are caught in: there are many, many people in the US who most sincerely believe adultery is wrong, and a bad enough wrong to justify ending the career of any politician who is proven to engage in, or admits to it. But more, I think, is attributable to the pretense.

I am offended by the pretense. I'd like to believe I can handle the truth, but as Jack Nicholson famously sneered, you can't handle the truth. The truth would mean confronting without a shield of vagueness all the things I don't like about any particular candidate. The truth would make it harder for me to admit that I'm compromising, that I'm choosing to compromise with someone who has characteristics I dislike or even despise, and admitting that threatens my self-esteem.

So I don't blame politicians for lying, for creating an acceptable image of themselves to get my vote, for (possibly) betraying their own sense of morals and ethics by pretending to be all the things we ask them to be, in order to get elected.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Bad Mom, Good Mom has pictures from computer models of knitting.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Based on...

The Volokh Conspiracy links to two useful resources: the movies based on true stories page and the movies based on books page (sorted by year of movie). Fascinating to browse.