Monday, December 30, 2013

How identity and being yourself in public are privileged

Great article on identity and "being yourself" concludes that "structureless" organizations default to the surrounding social structure, and if the social structure is white supremacy and patriarchy the "structureless" organization will copy it.
[I]n an organization without people formally titled “manager”, people will have to step up to manage each other at least sometimes and to some extent. How do you take initiative and assert power — in the absence of a structure that makes that power legitimate — when you’re already culturally oppressed and disempowered? If nobody is a manager, who will be most successful in, say, asking that their team institute a “run regression tests before committing code” policy: a tall, white, able-bodied, cis man; a short, Latina, disabled, cis woman; or a fat, Black, genderqueer person? When is it possible for people to really treat each other as equals, and when do they infer hierarchies when not given a formal hierarchy to look to?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Word for 2014: Heal

I have been through a lot this year, mostly physical health stuff (including two surgeries that involved opening my skull) but also some emotional stress, and so I am choosing heal as my word for 2014.

Surgery is very wearing on the body. I was under general anesthesia two times within four months, each time for more than two hours, followed by 2-night stays in the hospital and weeks at home recovering. I am doing physical therapy, but it will take months to get back the physical strength and stamina that I lost from the surgeries and more importantly the weeks of bed-rest after each surgery. Because my surgeries involved neurological symptoms, the healing of my brain pathways will also take time, as the physical therapy retrains my brain to fit the curing changes the surgeries made in my body.

I've also had some emotional pain and stress, and I need time to think about the sources of those feelings and work through my reactions.

I will focus on healing myself this year.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More than the minimum

Megan McArdle gets it right when she says:
My point is one that both sides should be able to agree on: whatever we redistribute, the most important task of economic policymaking is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to get a job which can support them decently--which is to say, at the minimum respectable standard of their society. He or she has to be able to obtain, in exchange for their honest labors, what Adam Smith called "the necessaries":

By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without. A linen shirt, for example, is, strictly speaking, not a necessary of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a creditable day-labourer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct. Custom, in the same manner, has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England. The poorest creditable person of either sex would be ashamed to appear in public without them. In Scotland, custom has rendered them a necessary of life to the lowest order of men; but not to the same order of women, who may, without any discredit, walk about barefooted. In France they are necessaries neither to men nor to women, the lowest rank of both sexes appearing there publicly, without any discredit, sometimes in wooden shoes, and sometimes barefooted. Under necessaries, therefore, I comprehend not only those things which nature, but those things which the established rules of decency have rendered necessary to the lowest rank of people. All other things I call luxuries, without meaning by this appellation to throw the smallest degree of reproach upon the temperate use of them. Beer and ale, for example, in Great Britain, and wine, even in the wine countries, I call luxuries. A man of any rank may, without any reproach, abstain totally from tasting such liquors. Nature does not render them necessary for the support of life, and custom nowhere renders it indecent to live without them.

If that isn't possible for everyone, or can be done only with heroic and unceasing effort, then economic policy is not working, even if the gini coefficient and the tax laws are arranged to everyone's perfect satisfaction.

Economics is about more than tax policy, or inflation policy. It's part of how we shape our society and our community.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Quotes on creativity

"No great thing is created suddenly."

Epictetus

"Doing something and getting it wrong is at least 10 times more productive than doing nothing at all."

Anonymous

Friday, May 24, 2013

What if links made you think?

What if IQ tests are really measuring the ability to filter your visual environment?
The ability to visually filter the motion strongly predicted IQ in fact, motion suppression (the ability to focus on the action and ignore background movements) was as predictive of total IQ as individual subsections of the IQ test itself.

What if monogamy is what makes women's sexual desire diminish?
But for many women, the cause of their sexual malaise appears to be monogamy itself. It is women much more than men who have H.S.D.D., who don’t feel heat for their steady partners. Evolutionary psychologists argue that this comes down to innate biology, that men are just made with stronger sex drives — so men will settle for the woman who’s always near. But the evidence for an inborn disparity in sexual motivation is debatable. A meta-analysis done by the psychologists Janet Hyde and Jennifer L. Petersen at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, incorporates more than 800 studies conducted between 1993 and 2007. It suggests that the very statistics evolutionary psychologists use to prove innate difference — like number of sexual partners or rates of masturbation — are heavily influenced by culture. All scientists really know is that the disparity in desire exists, at least after a relationship has lasted a while.

What if you really got to negotiate the contract that is the terms of service (TOS) internet companies are always making you sign?
One thing a "People"s Terms of Service" would challenge is the Objective Theory of Contract, the doctrine that attempts to ignore the context in which contracts are negotiated and agreed upon. "The law currently protects one-sided contract arrangements," the authors write, "by assuming they were fairly negotiated, and thus reflect a 'meeting of the minds' by equal parties." Yet that assumption, in a world of boilerplate jargon and pages-long disquisitions, is no longer a fair one to make. "After all," they argue, "these contracts are usually created through user confusion and one-sided demands. How can citizens even bargain with a standard, take-it-or-leave-it form?"

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Gun use doesn't have to mean bullet use

You can use a gun to stop a crime, even a person who is actively injuring others, without shooting at them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Giving up, or aggression?

In On the Radicalism of Leaving, Ta-Nehisi Coates points out a quote from a book he's reading:
Oftentimes to just go away is one of the most aggressive things that another person can do, and if the means of expressing discontent are limited, as in this case, it is one of the few ways in which pressure can put.
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth Of Other Suns
Mr. Coates (and the book) are discussing the Great Migration, the movement of African-Americans away from the South in the 20th century. But the quote is worthwhile to me on a personal level.

As "kylara7" puts it in a comment to that article,
The quote captures one of the great personal "click" moments in my life, when it dawned on me that I was not obligated to dig in and try to fix unsolvable or entrenched problems with family, friends, workplace, or partners, and that one of the options on the table was to simply just walk away.
You don't have to keep trying. You don't have to give second and third and forty-fifth chances. You don't have to accept apologies. You don't have to forgive. You can move on.

Moving on has a price-it has many prices. But it also has rewards. One of them is that your life can be about something else, not about solving past problems. It can be about a new creative adventure, or making a new friend. It can be about working on your own issues instead of somebody else's.

I've never thought of it as aggressive before, but I can accept that the people you leave may receive it as aggressive and that may be one of the costs.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Overweight people live longer, more active lives

In Rethinking Thin, Megan McArdle disposes of arguments trying to ensure the safety of society's religious obsession with whether people are fat. After disposing of arguments about the populations involved in the study and whether it controlled for other markers of health, she discusses whether people might be living longer but, because of ill health, be less active and happy.
On the contrary, active life expectancy is increasing faster than life expectancy, according to the experts I interviewed for an article in the Atlantic. You can see this in the proportion of people on Medicare who have limitations in their ability to perform the tasks of daily living, which has been falling, not rising. (Note: this chart is from 2008, before the bulge of baby boomers started skewing Medicare demographics younger).
(links omitted, available at original)

So yeah, we may be getting more fat, but it doesn't seem to be making us die earlier or have less active, less healthy elderly years--to the contrary, in fact.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Maybe that's enough bullets? Maybe not?

In response to a recent series of mass murders a lot of people are trying to come up with a way to reduce the risks of them happening again. There are some reasonable proposals that I, as a gun owner, would be willing to support--if I were also seeing reasonable risk assessment. But when people suggest a law barring large magazines (which carry more bullets so you can go longer without reloading), I don't see risk assessment that includes stories like this.
“The perpetrator opens that door. Of course, at that time he’s staring at her, her two children and a .38 revolver,” [Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman] told Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh.

The woman then shot him five times, but he survived, Chapman said. He said the woman ran out of bullets but threatened to shoot the intruder if he moved.

“She’s standing over him, and she realizes she’s fired all six rounds. And the guy’s telling her to quit shooting,” Chapman said.

The woman ran to a neighbor’s home with her children. The intruder attempted to flee in his car but crashed into a wooded area and collapsed in a nearby driveway, Chapman said. [Emphasis added]
She shot him six times and he still got up, got into his car, and drove away. Yes, she ended the engagement--but only because he chose to try to get away. What if he'd chosen to press his attack? Maybe she didn't really hit him, or only gave him a flesh wound? Nope:
Slater– who was taken to the hospital with punctured lungs, a punctured liver, and a punctured stomach– has reportedly been arrested six times since 2008.
She hit center-of-mass at least a couple of times; those are serious wounds. But that clearly wasn't enough to stop him. One shot didn't stop him; six didn't stop him! If he'd decided to come after her, he might well have injured her or her kids.

This didn't take place in an instant. She heard him break in the front door and had collected her children and retreated to a crawl space.
Authorities said the woman took her twin 9-year-old children to the attic as the man broke into their house with a crowbar. He reportedly busted open the front door and gave chase when he heard the woman call out to her children.

Investigators said the man chased the family into a crawl space near the attic, and when he opened a door the mother opened fire, striking him five times.
and he tracked her down. But the police weren't there yet.
And remember this was all before police were able to respond. She had called her husband as the home invasion was taking place and he called 911.

I don't think this kind of home-invasion self defense gun use happens very often-but then, neither do mass murders. How do we decide whether the risk of mass murders is worth keeping someone like this woman from defending her life and her children's from a violent attack?

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Links recently

Crochet a sushi or bacon-and-eggs scarf.

Think making it yourself is cool? How about a phone from your barbed wire fence?

I want to try casting my own chocolate shapes in brown sugar!

I've done a lot of sewing using my old clothes as the raw material, and here's an old sewing pattern that shows exactly how to cut out a woman's blouse and jumper from a man's shirt and an old dress.

A comment on a blog post about the problems with bras makes the most important point:
[I]t’s important to remember that a bra is like any other product of human engineering. And with all other ingenious and near-magical things mankind (and womankind) has made, somewhere along the line someone said it was too expensive to manufacture that way.

So remember. When you’re dissatisfied with the way something is made, punch an accountant.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Word for 2013

To cultivate, literally, means to run a tool through the earth to loosen it, so air, water, and nutrients can penetrate the soil and improve it. This year I want to cultivate my life as if it were a garden. I want to pull some weeds, tidy up the planting beds, and clip off the dead leaves and branches to leave room for new growth.

Another meaning of cultivate is to encourage, as in cultivating a hobby by spending time researching and practicing it. This year I want to cultivate my interests. I want to learn more about some things, and practice others to improve my skills.

Cultivate is an active verb. It's something I can do.