pat: (Default)
( Jun. 28th, 2009 05:03 pm)
Last time I posted on Dreamwidth, the automatic crossposting did not work.  Time to check again.
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( May. 15th, 2009 04:28 pm)
Jenny McCarthy: Public Health Menace, including The Jenny McCarthy Body Count. If you click on the body count box, it will give you more information about McCarthy's campaign and why she is full of crap. I note that this includes deaths and illnesses from vaccine-preventable diseases. I've also always been concerned about the major effect of rubella especially on pregnant women, although I guess the sad results of the anti-vax campaigns in that arena won't be known for a couple of decades.

Thanks to [ profile] mactavish in Twitter for the link.
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( May. 6th, 2009 07:41 pm)
Just testing out this cross posting business. Nothing to see here. Yeah, I know I could take everybody else's word on it, but what's the fun in that? :)
A week or so ago, [ profile] browngirl had a discussion about Elizabeth Alexander's inaugural poem. She suggested that we needed to have people do voice posts of their readings of it, since many people were put off by Alexander's. Here's my take. Sorry for the sound quality, it was the best I could do.

Here it is: "Praise Song for the Day," by Elizabeth Alexander.

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( Dec. 26th, 2008 12:05 am)
An individual let slip that he was privy to knowledge he should not have. He is subjected to conditions which are, by his definition, torturous. He is desperate to make the treatment end.

"Who told you that..." his interrogator demands.

The person considers. Telling the truth is impossible. He would either not be believed, or his treatment would be even worse.

So he lies, naming an innocent colleague as the source of his illicit knowledge . Viewers are subjected to the sounds of the colleague screaming in desperate confusion as he is beaten.

Can you identify the movie?

The Answer, and a few thoughts )
pat: (Default)
( Dec. 3rd, 2008 02:02 pm)
While following a link in a comment thread at Slacktivist, I ran across a post by writer Kit Whitfield on her blog about plausibility in fictional worlds, and it got me thinking about a major reason I do not find the Star Wars movies (which I saw again over the holiday weekend) nearly as interesting as I did when I was seventeen. Bear with me -- I am pretty sure my gripes are not in the least new or novel.

A major source of my discontent can be clearly seen in one scene in "A New Hope" (what we oldtimers simply called Star Wars). Luke and Leia are on board the Millennium Falcon, having escaped from the Death Star and Leia comforts Luke over the loss of Obi-Wan.

Note: not over the brutal murders of the people who had raised him since he was an infant. Other than a stoic turning away, not once do we see him mourn for them. But he's devastated (or at least as grief-stricken as anyone is allowed to become in the Star Wars universe) over a man whom he met for the first time a few days earlier .

And she comforts him -- when her grief, which we never see either, should be at least as significant as his: her family, friends, home, hell, her planet have been reduced to a pile of interstellar rubble. Other than a brief moment after their destruction, we never see any significant moment of loss or pain on her part.

Another moment: after the destruction of the Death Star, nothing is shown but jubilation, not concern or pain for those who have been lost. It might almost be the aftermath of a galactic football game.

There is little psychological reality here. People don't act like that -- they mourn the loss of those they love. Or maybe they don't in that galaxy far, far away: what is psychological reality there may be very different from what it is here. Which would be fine, except that we are asked to buy into their plight at all times, to identify with them as heroes. How can we do that unless we embrace their vision of reality, psychological or otherwise?

A reality in which the only people* who seem to count are warriors, and people are not mourned unless they are Jedi Knights** is not one I find particularly interesting.***

*or sentient aliens who seem to act like people, e.g., the ewoks.

**Yes, I know Anakin mourned his mother: he reacted by killing all the sandpeople in the camp, which was shown as a sign of how close he was to being driven to the Dark Side. Also, it was a slightly -- only slightly -- more psychologically nuanced universe is Episodes I, II, III, even though the dialogue was far clunkier.

*** A lot of action movies I have seen have similar issues to this, which may be why I don't like them -- Iron Man excepted.
I just spent a forty five minutes writing a post on voting, which I then accidentally lost. Damn. I leave you with this piece from my other, now-defunct blog.
And this one, as well, which I stumbled across and like even better, I think.
[cross posted to other blog]

It has been way too long since I have posted here. But I had to break radio silence simply to point out out that I have been a Tampa Bay Rays fan since before they stepped on the ever verdant Astroturf of Tropicana Field, and that the past week makes up for an awful lot of conversations which went like this:

"The X are doing really well this season," other baseball fan.
"I'm a [Devil] Rays fan myself," me.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!, or, if they are gentle souls, "Oh, I'm so sorry".

Ten years. Ten years of always being the miserable losing team -- not cute, not lovable, just bad. We weren't even the '62 Mets, who at least were amusing in an Ed Wood so-bad-it's-funny sort of way.

And this. Better than any of our dreams had a right to be. And with the strong possibility of getting better still. I just wish my Dad, who passed away the year before the franchise was awarded but who always wanted to see a MLB franchise in St. Pete, was here. He'd love it.

Worst to First (in the AL, at least). Not bad for a team named for a bunch of fish representing not a state, not a city, but a body of water.

pat: (Default)
( Oct. 20th, 2008 09:40 pm)
Hi, I'm Pat, and I am really good at managing other people's crises. Want to hire me?
pat: (Default)
( Sep. 18th, 2008 12:00 pm)
In past election years, I did extensively researched posts on deadlines and requirements for voting in every state. I have neither the time nor the energy this time around.

Fortunately, I don't have to. These people have done it for me.

Register. Vote. Urge -- no, demand -- your friends and neighbors do likewise. It matters an almost unimaginable amount.

Thanks to Jim Macdonald at Making Light for the link.
Sometime soon, I will finish my observations about my trip, but I wanted to comment about something someone said to me during the tail end of the Democratic campaign.

I mentioned that I was supporting Obama. She replied that true feminists support Clinton. (This pissed me off, but for a variety of reasons this was not a person I could be snippy with.)

"It is so important to get a woman in the office. It doesn't really matter who. Then after the glass ceiling is broken, *then* you can vote for this woman or that man without reference to gender."

I made non-commital noises, but what I wanted to say is...

Hell, no. I'm from the South, and I know the danger of that approach. You do that and you get anti-ERA, anti-abortion rights Senator Paula Hawkins from Florida (who fortunately was voted out after one term, after a campaign in which, among other things, she implied that Mexican-Americans were less patriotic than Cuban-Americans). You get that State Senator from Kansas who thinks the 19th Amendment should be repealed.

You get Katherine Harris.

Elected officials hold power. Never, ever forget that. This is not a game. Getting the best person -- regardless of gender -- into the office is what matters. Would, all things being equal, I vote for a woman over a man? Of course. But things are not -- and rarely are -- completely equal.

Do I think Clinton falls into the same class as the women mentioned above? No, definitely not. But there are good and sufficient reasons for me to support her opponent, at least by my standards, and I refuse to be a gender-based voter.

It all comes down to who will be the best President. I made my choice, and it's not her.

(Actually, it was John Edwards. Oh well.)
Paris is a nice city to celebrate an anniversary in.

Dragging a high functioning autistic teenager who does. not. like. to. be. touched. by. ANYONE. including. his. mother through the Metro at rush hour is no fun for anyone, least of all him. He didn't melt down, but was not a happy camper.

Paris is not gimp friendly -- there are few if any lifts in the Metro, e.g.

Paris in the summer is MUGGY. And has mosquitos the size of hummingbirds. It is still, however, PARIS.

Going to the Eiffel Tower when you are exhausted is a bad idea because it means your fibro will flare up and make it hard to walk around the next day. Which means you need to get people to believe you, and not give in simply because they wheedled/nagged you enough.

I still love the Orsay more than the Louvre. I liked the Mona Lisa better than the first time I saw her, and the Venus de Milo seemed smaller than I remembered. And how did I miss the Code of Hammurabi and the winged bulls last time, not to mention the copper swords? Oh, right, I wasn't with kids who were interested in those things.

Going to art museums with your kids can be fun -- especially snarky seventeen-year-olds who do not believe in sacred cows. ("What a brat!" was his comment on Degas's "Ballet Dancer." "You can tell just by looking at her.")

The HFA kid seemed bored and fretful by most of the Louvre, and I despaired of the Orsay, which has no neat non-art objects in it. He seemed entranced by Impressionism, however, and was irritated a bit at being hurried along (we arrived late, and only had a little time, and I wanted to be sure they saw some of the most famous paintings.)

All of the kids are eager to see the Rijksmuseum when we get to Amsterdam. And the Van Gogh Museum. Clearly, I am doing something right here.

There are worse ways to celebrate Independence Day than visiting Omaha Beach. And having discussions with aforementioned seventeen year old about the nature of sacrifice and patriotism.

Viewing the Bayeux Tapestry, one is reminded once again how really literate "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" is.

DInner in Honfluer was me asking for the item on the menu identified as "a local specialty" without knowing what it was. Go me. Especially as it turned out to be a really lovely variant of cottage pie* with slices of marvelously spiced beef in a mashed potato crust.

Tonight is Bruges, with a sick eleven year old (hopefully it's just a migraine, and the vomiting is now over) and tomorrow evening, God willing, Amsterdam.

Tomorrow morning and early afternoon? Chocolate and beer.** And many pommes frites.***

Works for me.

* See, [ profile] klwalton, I called it by its proper name.
**And laundry. But the less said about that, the better.
*** The Belgians make the best frites in all the world -- why do they not call them Belgian Fries?
I am really behind the curve, and most people are so tired of reading about this they could scream, but my mind can't help returning to the current OSBP drama, and why I think stickers saying "Yes you can ask to touch my breasts" -- even when initiated by women, even when done with the best intentions -- are such a horrid idea. And all I can say is "Just because it is...."

Which is a lousy answer to anything.

But it's the only answer I've got.

The Open Source Boobs Project is a bad idea because....

Because there are women just like me who often cannot wear bras and who can tell you just what sort of looks they get for that.

Because people make Dolly Parton jokes, even though she is in fact an incredibly shrewd businesswoman.

Because it still is a big deal that Brandi Chastain tore off her shirt.

Because there are still places where nursing mothers get harassed by restaurant owners.

Because there are high school seniors who want breast augmentation surgery for graduation.

Because Stephanie Kuleba is not going to see her nineteenth birthday.

Because as much as we may wish it away, there are large portions of the population -- not exclusively male, either -- for whom a woman's breasts are of paramount importance in any evaluation of her attractiveness. Encouraging people in that assessment -- even unintentionally -- is a bad thing.
pat: (Default)
( Apr. 24th, 2008 06:11 pm)
A couple of odds and ends regarding the Open Source Boobs Project, since most everything worth saying has already been said.

The best explanation for why I have a problem with it is neatly summed up by [ profile] kate_nepveu here, with a nice wrap up post here.

The Open Source Swift Kick In the Balls Program satire by [ profile] misia fails for me because I am not a fan of humor about violence towards people. (And yes, I get that she's referencing Swift; for some reason I can not clearly articulate the reference does not map. For me, at least.)

The Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Program by [ profile] vito_excalibur, on the other hand, is freaking brilliant, and I wholeheartedly sign on.

Pretty much random problem which happens from time to time: I cannot figure out whether I want to be [ profile] rivka or [ profile] klwalton more when I grow up.
is NOT data.

Anecdote is just that: the stories, true or not, to whatever extent, that we tell ourselves and others about what has happened in our world. They can contain important information; they may also contain irrelevancies, illogical assumptions, hidden biases, and unintentional (or intentional) misrepresentations arising out of our experiences (or lack thereof) and our attempts to interpret the world around us.

Data is information: hopefully good information, stripped of all the above problems, but not always. But the farther away the data is from anecdote, either by analysis or by not having arisen from anecdote to begin with, the better the information usually is, because the less likely it is to be tainted by those problems plaguing pure anecdote. Furthermore, for data to make sense, it has to be based on a large enough sample size to swamp the details of anecdote, so anecdote effectively ceases to exist.

I think of it this way: data is gold (or silver or, depending upon the researcher, copper). Anecdote is ore. The ore can be high grade, from relatively unbiased and clueful observers, or low-grade, from people who don't really understand what's happening around them or who have an ax to grind. But adding more anecdotes in and of themselves does not add greater data -- it depends entirely upon the content and the quality of the information being added.

And, like gold from ore, data cannot arise from anecdote without a lot of refining and analysis. Using a few anecdotes to prove a given point, without data analysis that does things like account for variables and alternate possibilities, is like pointing to a mound of ore and saying "See how much gold I have!"

Background: this post  and this post.

Edited to add: it occurs to me that I am looking at this from a hard science/medical standpoint, mainly because that was how I was taught to look at things.  It also occurs to me that there may be fields where the stories people tell themselves are in and of themselves the data -- such as sociology or linguistics. (I know next to nothing  *nothing* about linguistics or sociology.)  Must go away and educate self, and ponder more metaphors because, dammit, my world runs on metaphors.
pat: (Default)
( Apr. 21st, 2008 04:34 pm)
I have been very remiss in answering LJ comments -- I'm sorry. I've read all of them...

There is one thing several people have commented on that I feel compelled to clear up: unfortunately, I did not originate "The plural of anecdote is not data." I have seen it mentioned a number of places around the web, and thought it was just one of those general aphorisms like "democracy is not a spectator sport" (nope, I didn't think up that one either) that one sees. I guess I see it often enough that it didn't occur to me that other people would be unfamiliar with the phrase.

I've never seen it attributed to anyone, and a Google search turns up confusion, but it seems to have been the work of nutritionist and pharmacologist Frank Kotsonis.

Someone commented in brian1789's journal that I had it wrong, that the quote really is "The plural of anecdote is data." While I have seen that, too, I happen to think it is wrong, for several important reasons, which I don't have the time to explain.
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( Apr. 15th, 2008 12:28 pm)
I am watching "Supersize Me" by Morgan Spurlock and it is pissing me the hell off. Not because there aren't some valid points to be made about the deleterious effects of fast food and convenience foods, but because it is feeding into the whole "obesity epidemic" crap -- see Junkfood Science on this score -- and because there is some simple plain stupidity in it. Such as when the son of the founders of Baskin Robbins talks about how Ben (of Ben and Jerry's) and his father and uncle had all significant coronary problems. He then finished by saying "You can't deny these links!"

I sure as hell can. First of all, the plural of anecdote is not data. Secondly, without any information about health risks among the individuals generally, to point to one specific factor as causing their disease is plainly ludicrous.

They showed this in my son's health class. Nothing like fostering a lack of critical thinking skills.

Then again, I am finding the segment on school lunches to be interesting. But my annoyance at some of the rest of the documentary is tempering my enthusiasm.
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( Mar. 28th, 2008 10:38 am)
Today is Blog Against Torture Day. I don't think I can say much more than I did in 2006, including:

Torture is immoral and reprehensible. Dictators and tyrants engage in torture; free and democratic people reject it as being the tool of despots. To suggest that we as Americans should engage in torture is to turn from our belief in just methods of punishment as enshrined in the Eight Amendment. For America to embrace torture means that the terrorists have well and truly won: they have turned us into the sort of monsters we fight wars against.
There is a large Drama at the edge of my personal life. It's been going on for a while, and seems to be winding down at long last. I hope I don't stir things up, but there is something I need to say in regards to The Drama, and my view on things personally.

By the way, it's not my Drama: I'm not the engineer, nor a passenger, merely the appalled farmer watching the railcars tear up the back forty. However, I have been informed that the individual who set The Drama in motion has claimed to several people to have acted out of consideration for my delicate feelings.

Ah. Really? This is very interesting, since the individual in question and I have, over the course of oh, two to two and a half years since I've known them (it may have been longer, time is an elusive concept for me) shared maybe a thousand words together, none of which were even remotely about the subject of The Drama. (It is also complete bullshit since the issue has always been not what they did but how they did it, but I digress.)

Which brings me to my two points:

1. Don't ever EVER EVER claim to be acting in my interest unless you have talked to me first specifically about my feelings. I am not a child to be managed or coddled. I am not a delicate flower to be protected. I am a lot stronger than a number of people give me credit for. I resent heartily being condescended to, and this is condescension of the worst sort.

2. Since I suspect that talk of me is merely a diversion, I also offer the following: own your own stuff. When you take actions, have the decency to take responsibility for what you do and why you do it, not try to make lame excuses which essentially make you look better by making making me look fragile and neurotic.

In other words....

Grow up.


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