when the status quo frustrates.

Okay, This Is Ridiculous

Monday, April 5th, 2010

I have kept my mouth shut about this…til now. But this is really the outside of enough, folks. I mean, come ON!

Study: Lack of breastfeeding costs lives, billions of dollars

(CNN) — If most new moms would breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life, it would save nearly 1,000 lives and billions of dollars each year,

Let me note now that I breastfed both my children til each one was a year old and breastfed exclusively through the first four months, so my absolute disgust with this article is in no way some kinda guilt-fueled defensive huffiness. I was a good little Mommie! I saved nearly 1,000 lives and billions of dollars each year! (I could use some of that money right now too, thanks–drop me an email, whoever is holding onto that?)


Yes, Virgil, Men and Women Can Be Friends

Friday, March 19th, 2010

The Person of Honor at my wedding was my male friend, PE. PE in have been close friends for a long time now. At no point in our long friendship; a friendship that has included sleeping over at one another’s house, sharing hotel beds, walking around in the moonlight and getting really drunk, has there been anything that could be construed as sexual or romantic. Not a kiss, not a hug that wasn’t platonic, not a lingering look that has set either of our hearts beating. Yes, my friend PE is straight.*

So, when people write articles describing a gender-neutral housing policy for dorm rooms, all I can think is “about damn time”. I know it would have been easier for me to find a male roommate that I knew in college rather than a female one**, not to mention a lot easier for Hubby and I get to get an apartment together earlier. But, of course, an article like this has to bring out the people who apparently think the relationships I have with my male friends are fictitious, whom the only reason that a male and a female would room together would be because they wanted to have sex with each other.

Where does this belief come from, exactly? Nobody I know my age lacks for mix-gendered friends. Heck, as near as I can tell, even my parents and my in-laws have mixed-gendered friends. We are not leopards, whom only come in contact with each other for sex. We are social creatures that mingle all the time. If you don’t have that urge before you move in together, I’m telling you snoring, bad breath, bed-head and uncapped toothpaste tubes are not going to generate a deep and abiding lust.

Will some boyfriends/ girlfriends room together? Absolutely***. Will there be relationships where there is underlying sexual tension that will be released? Again, absolutely, but not near as much as the comments seem to think. The dire predictions of uncontrollable fucking, destroyed grades, et cetera are based in fairy tale land****. I also think that the number of romantic couples that will want to move into together are actually much smaller than people think. Most college students are not ready to live with their significant other, and the ones that are already do.

College students are adults. I realize that people seem to dispute this all the time, but they are. If they want to have a roommate who’s of the opposite gender- let them. In one’s life, we have to navigate all sorts of different relationships. Fear-mongering about how “men can’t help it” and “women are helpless” are wrong, stupid, and damaging cliches.

*I’ve also had former boyfriends whom I’m good friends with and our contact is now non-sexual. I have also had friends where there WAS sexual tension, and for a variety of reasons, we never acted on it and still stay good friends. I also have had friends where we do occasionally fuck on top of the things that make us friends. There are a wide variety of relationships that I have, and have had, that forcing me to room with females did not get rid of. Heck, one of the sexual tension ones was because my female roommate was straight and I really liked her body.
**Though playing roommate-roulette actually worked with me. I had studious, neat, and mostly gone female roommates.
*** And good for them. This would definitely cut-out all of the negotiation and scheduling with roommates that having sex on college takes right now.
****The same place where the ’50s was a golden era filled with upright, moral people.

Aviation Stupidity Bill

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

This post does not have much to do with progressive politics, except that I believe that the progressive side of the spectrum supports being intelligent.

Early this last year, there was a terrible crash in Buffalo, New York. The NTSB discovered that the crash was a result of significant ice build-up on the wings of the aircraft. Many people died and were injured as a result of that crash.*

But, as a another result of that crash, the House immediately sprang into action to “Do Something”. They Must Make Aviation Safer!** So they created the “Aviation Safety Bill” H. R. 3371; a sweeping piece of legislation, and by an overwhelming majority passed it. Now it’s shipped off to the Senate, and they are the only hope to block it. And this is a bill to be blocked. Most of the stuff is actually a pretty good idea- for example, it basically kills overnight quick turns. It is currently pretty standard practice to have a pilot fly somewhere, and get 8 hours between their last flight, to when they need to be back in the morning at the airport. That sounds like enough to sleep, right? Except that you have to include the time to drive to and from the airport to the hotel, wind-down time, and getting ready in the morning and being at the airport early enough to inspect the plane. Then, all of a sudden, that 8 hours of sleep is more like 5. Having pilots that are more rested and awake will certainly make aviation safer.

There is also the redundant in this bill- such as the “pre-employment screening” of prospective pilots. It’s true that there is no law mandating such a thing, but all airlines do it anyway. They’re not going to waste their money on a bad pilot; not even American-based airlines are that stupid.

But, in section 10, there is the awful reason this bill needs to be killed, or at least amended. In section 10, it now requires that all first officers have an FAA ATP license.

Time Travelling God Particles

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

I’m no theoretical physicist, but I was a member of the institutional science community.  My particular bullshit field was “artificial intelligence,” but in the modern university, bullshit fields abound–sometimes with legitimate scientific endeavors buried within, or as an umbrella above, the bullshit.

I predict that large tracts of present-day physics research will be revealed as an exercise in mathematical masturbation–a sort of ueber-complex sudoku puzzle that only .001% of humanity has the intellect and training to attempt solving.  The sudoku metaphor can be extended to include the relevance of the solution to our questions about the nature of reality.

I’ll admit, I don’t have the mathematical chops to follow, replicate, or disprove the work of theoretical physicists.  My skepticism of their work stems from more primary methodological concerns.  Of primary concern is the lack of testable hypotheses–a feature found also in rank mysticism.

and then there’s this:

A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather. (NY Times 10/12/09)

One of the two pysicists is Bech Nielsen of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. You probably recognize from his famous proposal that the Veneziano model was actually a theory of strings*.  A distinguished physicist indeed.

Nielson along with Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto (less famous–doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry) propose that Higgs boson particles created by scientists in the future, travel backwards through time to prevent scientists in the present from discovering them.


Now I’m the first to sympathize with scientists forced to use metaphor.  Communicating an absurdly complicated topic to an untrained public is challenging.  I’m also sympathetic to the problem of the media in relating these metaphors to the public: how literal are they meant to be taken? Is the cat *really* alive and dead at the same time? Is space *actually* a rubber matt displaced by bowling balls? And so forth.

But, as far as I can tell, the Terminator metaphor above is meant to be taken literally.  Just substitute Higgs boson for Arnold, and anything-to-do-with-discovering-Higgs-boson for Sarah Connor.

The list of things sabotage possibly engineered by Higgs: the cancellation of the planned Superconducting Supercollider in the US in 1993, the various mechanical problems of the Large Hadron Collider, and the arrest of a resident physicist on suspcion of Al-Qaeda affiliation.


Of course, thinking like scientists, they’ve come up with a plan–a peer reviewed, up-for-publication-in-a-real-journal plan.  It goes a little something like this:

  1. Create a deck of 1 million cards.
  2. Write “Procede” on 999,999 of the cards.
  3. Write “STOP” on 1 card.
  4. Shuffle.
  5. Draw a card.

If the card says “STOP,” then it supports the claim that Higgs boson(s) are emanating from the future to stop scientists from creating them, and we should design more experiments so that Higgs, from the future, can tell scientists how they should proceed with their experiments.

I think it’s a great experiment, but I would go the additional step of not including the “STOP” card.  That would really cinch it.  As a “real time” way you provide Higgs input on HLC activity, you could have a grad students continuously flipping coins.  If one of them comes up heads one million times in a row then we know Higgs thinks we’re going too far.  Or, with nearly the same degree of scientific rigor, we could have a seance.  I’m willing to be the conduit through which the Higgs boson can make its will known to our world.


*I had no idea who he was either.

**Since it would cost, like, a billionth as much as their other bullshit experiments, why haven’t they done it?

It’s Banned Books Week!

Monday, September 28th, 2009

I love Banned Books Week! Some of my favorite books of all time are banned books…I mean, check out this list of classics! Admittedly, a lot of the banning action took place decades ago, but lest anyone think we’ve relaxed our deathgrip on the minds of our children in this new millenium, here are a nice collection of more recent incidents to sneer at:

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Sallinger: Removed by a Dorchester District 2 school board member in Summerville, SC (2001) because it “is a filthy, filthy book.”

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck*: Banned from the George County, Miss. schools (2002) because of profanity.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: Challenged in Foley, Alabama (2000) because of the depictions of “orgies, self-flogging, suicide” and characters who show “contempt for religion, marriage, and the family.” The book was removed from the library, pending review.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: Burned in Alamagordo, N. Mex. (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic.

If you’re interested in the most up-to-date reporting on the 2008 open season on communication of unapproved ideas, the American Library Association puts out a yearly list of the books that are challenged, restricted, removed or banned–see if your favorites are on there too!

Leaving you with the bittersweet taste of irony, from January of this year. Enjoy!

*I might sympathize with an attempt to ban it from required reading lists–yes, it was on mine in high school–based on the fact that it sucks ass and there are at least one hundred more interesting and compelling novels that could immediately and happily replace it…but no, I have to defend John Steinbeck’s biggest load of crap evar based on principle. A shame, but there you have it.

Happy Independence Day (and Belated Canada Day)

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

Happy 4th of July everyone! Today we celebrate the day that our Founding Fathers did a very brave thing by mailing a copy of the Declaration of Independence to the King of England. Of course, since mail in those days was really slow, he didn’t get it for months later, but, this is the day where there was no turning back for the country- there would be independence or there would be a war.

When I lived in Washington, there was always a joint party on either the 2nd or the 3rd with Canada, where both countries celebrated our respective days and our long and enduring friendship. In North Dakota, it was the same thing, except it was held at the International Peace Garden. So, even though it was three days ago, I want to give a shout-out to Canada, and how they gained their independence by filing the correct paperwork (in hindsight, I wish the early Americans would have thought about doing that.)

All joking aside, today is the day that I really think about what it means to be an American. For all of the complaining that some conservatives say about liberals and our patriotism, I think that in a very real way liberals understand that it’s not the dirt that we were born on that makes us Americans. The United States is not great because we have the largest economy, nor is it great because we have arguably the most powerful military on the globe. We are great because we are a shifting, arguing, debating, fighting experiment of democracy. We are not a perfect country, and should never pretend we are, but the ideals that we have are worth striving for, and worth struggling over and yes, worth being proud of.

The Passion of Ayn Rand

Monday, April 27th, 2009

That is the title of her biography, written by one of her ex-adherents who also happened to be the wife of a man Ayn had a long-term affair with–given all that, one would expect the tone of the book to be rather more unsympathetic than otherwise. However, that’s not really the case. I read it over a decade ago for a college class–the one and only women studies course I ever took required us to choose and write an in-depth paper about an influential woman of the first half of the twentieth century. I chose Ayn Rand, for three reasons: first, because she fit the criteria as presented; second, because I have a rebellious streak and knew full well that we were expected to choose a feminist, regardless of what the criteria explicitly stated; and third, because I was genuinely interested in the woman behind Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.


The Definition of “Needs a Life”

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Remember when all there was to do was watch the neighbors..?

Via CNN:

When her baby girl takes an afternoon nap, or on those nights when she just can’t sleep, Sarah Andrews, 32, tosses off her identity as a suburban stay-at-home mom and becomes something more exotic: a “virtual deputy” patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border.

From her house in a suburb of Rochester, New York, Andrews spends at least four hours a day watching a site called BlueServo.net.

There, because of a $2 million grant from the state of Texas, anyone in the world can watch grainy live video scenes of cactuses, desert mountains and the Rio Grande along Texas’ portion of the international border.

When Andrews spots something she deems suspicious — perhaps a fuzzy character moving from right to left across the screen or people wading through the river with what appear to be trash bags atop their heads — she and the site’s 43,000 registered users can send e-mail messages straight to local law enforcement, who then decide whether to act.

“Today, there’s a couple vehicles that are parked side by side next to each other,” she said by phone, her 7-month-old cooing in the background, “but I can’t tell what’s going on, you know?”

You know, I don’t generally pontificate much on the waste of taxpayer dollars. But this particular scheme struck me as, er, a pretty pathetic example of that…and that was before I even got to this part:

Since the site was launched in late November, only four arrests can be attributed to the cameras, said Don Reay, executive director of the sheriffs’ coalition, which runs the project with money from Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office.

All of those arrests were related to marijuana trafficking, he said, with about 2,000 pounds of the drug seized.

Those aren’t the kind of results planners were looking for when they started the program, but Reay says the program’s unseen value is in the fact that it prevents drug-related violence and trafficking.

Yeah, marijuana, the drug scourge of the United States! (eye. roll.)

He said sheriffs along the border have seen decreased crime in recent months, partly because of the camera program, although he said he could not cite statistics to back up that claim.

Further descent into ludicrousness:

Abernethy and Andrews, the two “virtual deputies,” said they would like to see greater transparency in the project. Both said they have e-mailed notes of suspicious activity to law enforcement, but neither has heard whether their alerts were of any help.

“It’s interesting. You see different things on there, but I just — I don’t know that it’s doing any good,” said Andrews, the stay-at-home mom. “I wonder if it’s a waste of time.”

Answer: YES!! …hello?!

She also said the site draws her interest because she’s nosy


Abernethy said he will continue to watch the cameras because he feels like he’s part of an altruistic group of volunteers. Friends tease him about watching the site, he said. But he sees it as no worse than any other form of quick entertainment — and maybe he can be of some help in the process.

“It’s no different than watching ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ reruns,” he said. “It’s just something to do.

DUDE…TV shows at least pretend to have a plot. With people. Speaking dialogue. To each other. Security cameras are not entertainment…the fact that you are able to think so is not something I would admit in public if I were you. Ever thought of taking a correspondence course? or going bowling? buying a kitten..? something?


Women’s-Only Spaces

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

In my post, Sexist/ Not Sexist (add link) JamesH left the following question:

Purely out of interest, where do you stand on female-only health clubs / gyms?
Or female-only Clubs or schools?
I don’t have a problem with previously male-only Clubs and institutions opening up to admit both sexes, it was long overdue.
However, it seems that the pendulum swung the other way and whereas it isn’t acceptable to have a male-only gym these days, it seems perfectly acceptable that there be female-only facilities. I can’t see the justification for it.
It’s the same with the Scouting movement. In this country, the Cubs and ‘Boy’ Scouts* were forced to accept girls that wanted to join, and had to make the necessary changes to accommodate them. I have no problem with that, but then find it somewhat hypocritical that the Brownies and Girl Guides still exist, and are still run as female-only packs.

Though I have my questions as to whether he’s asking that phrase in good-faith (sorry, JamesH, MRA’s are suspect here) it is an important question to consider.


Contemplating Obama and Economic Recovery

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

While I don’t agree with everything he has to say in the column he wrote today for the Washington Post, I can’t help but admire his obvious literacy. It’s funny how one falls into habits of thought without realizing it–I’d really come to view the President of the United States as merely a symbol for a specific ideology, not as an individual who acted upon national matters after giving them in-depth and intelligent thought specific to their particular circumstances and concerns.

I’ve had the same mental whiplash lately with feminist issues–I had subconsciously come to accept that women were going to be irrevocably second-class citizens where the national government (and most state governments) were concerned; the fight was to move the populace as much as possible to limit the powers of governance that naturally adhered to this ideal. The notion of “top-down” changes in women’s status had completely left me as something that actually came to mind as a possible solution. All directives coming from the “top” were going to be anti-woman; the only workable strategies were going to have to come from we-the-masses.

But, back to the economic stimulus package–I’ve been really hesitant to weigh in because economics is not my area of expertise, especially on the macroscopic scale. I never feel qualified to make pronouncements about what will and will not work to help repair our national economy; however, I will go ahead and venture my tentative opinions here; I’d love to hear from others with better knowledge than me of how macroeconomics work (and who are not simply quoting a party line, from either side of the aisle).

The Prez writes, in his WaPo article:

Now is the time to protect health insurance for the more than 8 million Americans at risk of losing their coverage and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years, saving billions of dollars and countless lives in the process.

Now is the time to save billions by making 2 million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years.

Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.

And now is the time to create the jobs that remake America for the 21st century by rebuilding aging roads, bridges and levees; designing a smart electrical grid; and connecting every corner of the country to the information superhighway.

From which I distill the following*:

(*If I’m partially or completely off-base with any of these, definitely let me know! Like I said, this whole area of understanding is not really my forte.)


Lovin’ Me Some Activist Judges

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Florida Gay Adoption Ban Is Ruled Unconstitutional

A Florida law that has banned adoptions by gay men and lesbians for over three decades is unconstitutional, a judge here ruled on Tuesday.

“The best interests of children are not preserved by prohibiting homosexual adoption,” the judge, Cindy S. Lederman of Miami-Dade Circuit Court, said in a 53-page decision. She said the law violated equal protection rights for children and their prospective parents.

Florida is the only state with a law prohibiting gay men and lesbians — couples and individuals — from adopting children. The Legislature voted to prohibit adoptions by gay men and lesbians in 1977, in the midst of a campaign led by the entertainer Anita Bryant to repeal a gay rights ordinance adopted by Dade County.


U.S. Court Allows Abuse Case vs. Vatican

A federal appeals court has permitted a lawsuit over alleged sexual abuse to proceed against the Vatican, creating potential liability for the seat of the Roman Catholic faith for the activities of Catholic clergy in the U.S.

Monday’s ruling, issued by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, marks the first time a court at so high a level has recognized that the Vatican could be liable for the negligence in sexual-abuse cases brought in the U.S.

The ruling is seen as a breakthrough by those allegedly abused by priests. Investigators and grand juries have found several instances where the church failed to report alleged abusers and covered up alleged misdeeds to protect them.

Context-sensitive advertising.

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Scene: the marketing department.

“We should like to advertise our fine retail establishment on the Google!”

“But we sell so many different products! How will we ever register enough ads to cover everything a potential customer could be searching for?”

“A solution! Google will let us advertise with a template that includes anything a user might search for! Surely, then, whatever someone is trying to buy—be it an object, idea, or person—they will be directed to our store!”

“Brilliant! Nothing could possibly go wrong.”