6.27.2006

Well whadya freaking know?

Best cure ever.

Crazy Linda Hirshman may have a point

Okay. Yesterday I read this Slate review of Hirshman's new book, Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World, and while I think she definitely goes too far by saying it's socially irresponsible for women to leave the workplace to stay home with their kids, I also think she raises some perfectly valid points. Or the reviewer does, at any rate.

1) A recent study found that a full 93 percent of "highly qualified" women who have opted out [of their jobs] want to find a way back in and can't. And, according to several studies, women in the United States suffer a 10 to 15 percent dock in future earnings when they have children—a drop that doesn't affect men.
I worry about this one for myself, particularly working in the sciences, where recent experience and study is key. Granted, I've seen plenty of women go back to work after taking time (as in several years) off to raise kids, but do they all go back doing what they wanted to do before? Some do, I'm sure, but not all.

2) Affluent and well-educated men rarely leave the workforce (and when they do, it's usually to return to school or start a business); a portion of affluent and well-educated women do opt out (and when they do, it's almost exclusively to raise children). When these women choose to devote their skills to childcare rather than to the workplace, they are "perpetuating a mostly male ruling class" — precisely the type unlikely to help make the case for more flexible work arrangements that would allow more women back into the workforce.
I firmly believe that if by some genetic mutation, men suddenly became the bearers and birthers of children, we would see daycare centers open up overnight in every law firm, every bank office, every pharmaceutical company, etc., etc. I don't really like to buy into the shrill feminist cry about those darned male opressors, but sometimes the proof is, as they say, in the pudding. Or the profit sharing. There are a lot more men in high-paying jobs than there are women, and if all those men suddenly wanted to be able to bring their babies in to the office and take 10-minute nursing breaks every couple of hours, while still being able to do their jobs and contribute to the company, I think it would happen. Yeah, I know it's not exactly practical to have child care services at every place of business (mines, lumberyards, restaurants, hog farms), but for the ones where it's not utterly insane to do so, why not? Besides, every daycare center needs employees, so you're creating jobs in the process. It's a win-win.

3) If women really do stay in the work force, even part-time, a few decades from now it may be easier for parents to opt out according to their personal preferences, rather than their gender. If one parent didn't want to assume the bulk of the child-care duties, as may well be the case, two could split it. The demand for elastic or part-time work by men and women alike would lead to more flexible jobs.
Sometimes the only way to get what you want is to force change. I'm not sure this will do it, but it's worth a try. The one thing I'm not sure about here is whether or not both partners working part-time can bring in enough income to do things like save for retirement and buy a house and pay for their kids' college tuition. Then again, I guess if you're working part-time at $35/hour, it's not so bad. (Good luck finding a gig like that now, though.)

I do resent Hirshman's implication that child-rearing isn't really 'valid work,' but I also know that it's not going to be all that long before I'll be at that work-or-kids crossroads myself, and while I can't imagine that either Tom or I will want to miss out entirely on all the 'firsts' of our offspring, I also can see myself losing my mind if I have to stay home full-time. I'd sure like the option of being able to work a few days a week in a job I felt was worthwhile and mentally stimulating. (I'm not saying that raising kids isn't worthwhile and mentally stimulating, but rather that I would not want to leave the house a few days a week to work at WalMart.) The whole issue certainly bears thinking about.

Of course, it's entirely possible the woman's completely guano after all:
She advises women to marry only men who will commit to a 50 percent housework/childrearing division of labor — or else to engage in a reproductive strike, limiting the number of children to one. And she counsels — so much for l'amour! — that young women marry only much older men or men who earn less than they do, in order to have more economic bargaining power.

When political correctness attacks

The quote in the last paragraph of this article about new Alzheimer's research made me chuckle:
If you don't keep yourself mentally challenged, your brain cells may die off.
D'oh.

6.24.2006

Cellular Automata

So there's this guy. Called Stephen Wolfram. He's English (don't blame him). A child prodigy. He gets a degree in theoretical physics at 17, his Ph.D. from Caltech at 20, and a MacArthur "Genius Grant" at 21. He invents what is possibly one of the finest computer algebra systems the world ever sees, and never has to work again... if he doesn't want to.

But he does. He slaves away in his (probably very, very, fine) den or home office, working on his magnum opus. Eventually he'll call it "A New Kind Of Science," and alienate his peers with his sweeping pronouncements and his bizarrely confrontational writing style (he didn't cite in the text, as is conventional in the fields of science and mathematics, but rather in an absurdly outsized appendix). It'll be printed by his own company, rather than a conventional science publisher, and elicit many... less than perfectly pleased reviews.

In it, he'll discuss why discrete systems (using finitely divided time and/or space dimension) are just as interesting-if not as more than-continuous systems. Particularly, he will discuss the cellular automaton. This is an interesting creature, wherein its behavior is regulated by a verrrry simple rule: that of iterated matrix-multiplication. This is fun stuff, but not exactly world-beating.

Now, however, he-or his disciples-have set it all to music. You, too, can be the beneficiary of Wolfram's unlimited largesse. Go here to get funky on the cellular automata like an old batch of eigenvalues.

In case you didn't know, I read his book on the plane back from London one time... I'm pretty sure the dude has gone 'round the bend. I think he's absolutely brilliant, and completely, bat-shit, crazy.

6.21.2006

Congress = poopyheads, Me = angerball

Congresspeoples, you should be ashamed of yourselves. You gave yourselves a hefty raise, just as you have done almost every year for the past decade, and then you turned around and refused to raise minimum wage a week later. You suck. The minimum wage has not kept up with inflation, you morons. Raising it by a couple of dollars an hour is not going to destroy our economy. Gah!

Well Done, Colbert Report Writers: Big Government vs. Small Government

"Mentioning Jesus in a speech is "small government". Actually doing what Jesus asked? Big government." [clap clap clap]

6.15.2006

Oh. My. God.

Via Slate:

President Bush: Peter. Are you going to ask that question with shades on?
Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times: I can take them off.
Bush: I'm interested in the shade look, seriously.
Wallsten: All right, I'll keep it, then.
Bush: For the viewers, there's no sun.
Wallsten: I guess it depends on your perspective.
Bush: Touché.

—Exchange with legally blind reporter Peter Wallsten, to whom Bush later apologized, Washington, D.C., June 14, 2006

How's about I cut that fat off with my toothbrush shiv instead?

How's this for a disturbing trend?
In the last two to three years, liposuction, once used predominantly to reduce the flabby abdomens, hips and thighs of average Americans, has become a tool to enhance the near-perfect body parts of the already fit.

For this designer-body approach, an increasing number of doctors are using a technique known variously as precision, selective or micro liposuction. The goal is to remove an ounce or three of fat from ankles, knees, chins, necks, backs and upper arms, according to some prominent plastic surgeons and dermatologists.
And this lady clearly ought to be shot.
"By normal standards, I'm pretty skinny," said Ms. Goss, 38. She is 5-foot-10 and weighs 126 pounds, she said. "But my arms were getting a little flappy. I could feel it wiggle every time I shook hands."
It's a sad day indeed when unrealistically "perfect" bodies are so (surgically) attainable that they actually threaten to become the norm. We just watched a Doogie Howser episode from 1989 that dealt with this very thing, so it's not exactly a new idea. However, the woman in that episode was portrayed as something of a maniac with clear mental issues, and the women undergoing micro-lipo today are merely seen as members of a somewhat silly trend.

Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler?

Ah, my foot is in the door. Finally, I have made the first step towards adulthood. I have a 'real' job. Today, I filed bright pink invoices for 4 hours. Yesterday, I filed them for 8. And what is the real adult world without the traditional terrible, irreversible mistake? I accidentally deleted hundreds of pages of check reports. Ooops! Well, shit happens. And where there is shit, there is more shit. I also broke the paper shredder on my first day, and then today I jammed the electric hole puncher. Speaking of electric, pretty much all office supply's now a-day's are electric. They even have electric staplers, and machines that seal envelopes for them. I guess people are too lazy to slam a stapler anymore, and they don't like the taste of envelope glue. Meh. I personally like the monotony of filing without the electricity. Pick up the paper, slam the hole punch, cram into file, repeat. Plus, when you are doing something so eyebleedingly boring its nice to have something to hit that is built for pissed off office ladies-like staplers. This afternoon I was able to go on the field, as I like to call it (which really means drove around our 12 blocks of town) and evaluated alley ways. It was actually more fun than it seems, mainly because navigating the map in itself was a feat. But, I was also able to listen to music in my car and stop for coffee, and I get reimbursed for the gas and wear-and-tear on my 16 year old subaru. Plus, I discovered a few new alley ways that are quite charming that I never knew existed. Some of them are pretty charming, actually, in a creepy, almost sweet Jeunet sort of way. Anywho, my job is pretty nice, and I hear the filing should end by Monday when I actually get to start my department; Utilities. If I don't, then I guess I will cut off my own toes. Another plus is that I get an hour long lunch. I am there for nine hours, but its nice to be able to sit and relax, which I haven't been able to do with past jobs. I've been going down to the coffee house because they have been playing the World Cup on their pretty flat screen t.v's. It's pretty rad. And what's with the lack of posting? The last three have been from me. What's the deal hosers?

6.13.2006

6.08.2006

Let's do the time warp, for the first time?

Hey! I was voted by my senior class as the most likely to invent a time machine, and my price was a magnetic building kit. Cool! Everyone knows colorful plastic sticks and magnetic balls are essential to time travel. Also, I'm a genius. It was probably just because people think I am weird. If there had been a "Most Weird" category, I would have won it, hands down. Or possibly a "Best Ninja" category, I had a clear shot at that one. I guess you just settle for what you get. But what I really should have been voted was, "Most Procrastinating AP Student That Surprised Everyone With Her Ability To Graduate By Not Doing Anything. Ever."

6.07.2006

Little Old Lady Got Mutilated Late Last Night

This sentence has a really interesting sound to it, don't you think? Just listen to the sounds, not the words.

6.02.2006

Score-ola!

Today was my last day of high school, and I expect cards (filled with money).

6.01.2006

Oh boy! "Real" jobs are fun!

When I started in this department...

Purchasing Director: "The previous supervisor spent too much money on material and kept way too much stock, which expired and became waste. You must adopt a more lean purchasing strategy!"
Me: "You betcha!"

About two months ago...

Purchasing Director: "You must not keep running short on material! Increase your minimum stock requirements!"
Me: "Um...ok, I can do that. Aye-aye, sir!"

Today...

Purchasing Director: "We blew the receipts budget last month. Submit an expenditures estimate and aim to cut back on purchases for next month!"
Me: "You're kidding, right?"