Thursday, December 20, 2007

My teenaged behavior was at least predictive of non-violence!

While checking out the latest edition of Encephalon, I found this gem from Pure Pedantry. You can go read that, and he makes some very good points of his own about the inefficiency of efforts to limit gun access to the mentally ill, as opposed to general gun restrictions. The piece relies on a longitudinal study by Blitstein et al. which you could certainly read if you wish, which has a long section of relative risk tables for factors that predict violent behavior in children.

I noticed some specific relative risks that I found to be kinda cool, both from Table 3:
  • In girls, binge drinking is an indicator of LESS violent behavior (relative risk: 0.49, 95% confidence interval: 0.41 to 0.95) as compared to girls that do not binge drink.
  • In boys, smoking pot is an indicator of LESS violent behavior (relative risk: 0.61, 95% CI: 0.41 to 0.90) as compared to boys that do not smoke pot.
Cool beans, eh?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

If there were only women - why, they would be no obstacles at all!

I urgently need to share with the 0 viewers of this blog the feminist utopian novel Herland.

Originally published by Charlotte Gilman in 1915, and possessing a shocking insight - that women are people, capable of everything a man is capable of, and expressing the full range of human behavior when not constrained by the pressure to conform to mens' desires and demands.

On the down side, this is apparently only achieved when men have been eradicated from society for thousands of years.

To summarize, the story involves the accidental isolation of a society of women who develop parthenogenesis (the ability to give birth asexually), and a group of three men who hear about this fabled society and set out to see it for themselves with the expectations of, well, three men from the turn of the (20th) century who are going to be the only men in a country of women.

Which, as you'd imagine, is wildly-off base in a way that captures the attention. The actual all-women semi-survivalist society is not surprising: children are of singular importance, clothing and effects are meant to be practical and not frilly, the primary religion reveres Motherhood, sex is irrelevant.

It's fairly kickass.

Thanks to Thus Spake Zuska and the most recent edition of The Carnival of Feminists for this link.

Early Caturday Morning...

It's 4 AM on a Caturday, and it so happens that I have kitten pictures, and since this is the Interblag, I spose I'm obligated.

Meet Champagne Supernova (or Shammy, for short):

He's the adorable baby I adopted last summer. We found him through an ad in the Pennysaver; me and maybe four (college-student-age) friends went to this mini-shelter in a woman's basement to look at her cats, with hope but little intention of actually bringing home a baby. As soon as the lady opened the cage door, this little one ran out and sat on my feet, rubbing his head on my ankles and purring. He won.

Yes, that is my lap he's sitting in.

In the picture below, taken the week Shammy came home with me, the mouse is about the same size as in the picture above. Oosh my widdle puddum dere is all grown up! (When he starts bringing home the girls, we're going to embarass him with pictures like this.) (I'm mildly psychotic, I know. I love my cat. /shrug)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Garden of Eden was in... Missouri? No, that can't be right.

This started out as a whole different idea for a post, but Mitt Romney's shenanigans are too much for me not to take a shot.

The presidential contender (no, really, now that Giuliani's been caught in the act, Romney and Huckabee are actually in the running for real) recently gave a convincing presentation on Why You Should Stop Worrying and Love The Mormons:
  • not sweating the small stuff:
    • "There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution."
    • "It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course."
  • maintaining his True Christianity (tm):
    • "What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind."
    • "I am moved by the Lord's words: 'For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me...'"
  • kissing hands and shaking babies:
    • "And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me."
    • "And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: [pander, pander, pander]."
  • picking on the Other Guys:
    • "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. ... Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."
    • "We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places."
    • "I have visited many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. They are so inspired ... so grand ... so empty. Raised up over generations, long ago, so many of the cathedrals now stand as the postcard backdrop to societies just too busy or too 'enlightened' to venture inside and kneel in prayer."
    • "Radical violent Islam seeks to destroy us. An emerging China endeavors to surpass our economic leadership. And we are troubled at home by government overspending, overuse of foreign oil, and the breakdown of the family."
Ok, Mr. Romney. You can turn off the giant neon sign that says, "I'M ONE OF YOU GUYS!!" I think we all understand.

Dude, PZ totally used the same rhetorical flourish as me!

Since today seems like a list type of day, quoth PZ Myers:

Who is best qualified to make informed choices about complex scientific theories?

  1. Scientists with years of training in the subject, and qualified science teachers who understand the fundamentals of the theory.
  2. Creationists who won't even commit to an estimate of the age of the earth.
  3. Members of the board of education who have absolutely no training in the sciences.
  4. Children who are just being introduced to the topic for the first time, haven't read any of the primary literature, and who are entirely dependent on the competence of the instructors who have given them an outline of the general story.

If you get the answer right to this question and the previous entry's question, I'll totally give you an e-cookie.

Well, ok, since this blog is a day and a half old, there are e-cookies for anyone who stumbles upon my sad little site and comments.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Economist throws the New Atheists a Bone

There are now at least five times as many irreligious people in the US as there are Jews. However, the nonreligious political bloc has very little representation in the government. Why is this?
  1. We can't think of a catchy term for ourselves.
  2. Some of our objections to the federal government's endorsement of Christianity aren't "tactically wise".
  3. The majority of Americans hold prejudicial beliefs about atheists.

If you picked C, good job, you're more incisive and less biased than the writers for The Economist. Choice A sounds like something out of South Park (Allied Atheists' Alliance?). And B is just... stupid. That's like saying, "You know, the gay political agenda is great, except for that wanting to get married thing. If they didn't pursue that, I think that they'd be more successful politically." Just because you enjoy the privelage of the government supporting your way of doing things, doesn't mean that everyone else has to sit down and shut up for politeness' sake.
"An unbelieving president still seems an unlikely prospect. On the other hand, only 53% of Americans still say they would not vote for an otherwise well-qualified atheist."
Only 53% of American's wouldn't vote for an atheist, for no other reason than that person's an atheist. The majority of Americans still don't like us for no reason at all. Although, according to The Economist, it sounds like we should be happy about our progress. Maybe if we work real hard we'll be less-despised than the blacks! Yeah, and clearly the real problem here is that we don't have fancy enough hats, or whatever.