Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Bad Science / Poor Logic / What a Maroon Rant

I've mostly avoided political rants like I did in my old days. Instead, when I have stated something governmental as of late, I've tried to be constructive overall. But some stupid quotes have hit the blogosphere from a columnist at National Review Online, John Derbyshire, who, in short, would be happier if women couldn't vote, since all they want is for the state to take care of their babies. You can get the details here should you be in a fighting mood. I posted two comments on The Moderate Voice blog and I've copied them here:

1) I'm not up in my political pundits and have no idea who Derbyshire is, but it would seem like such a view would push him to the fringes of conservative punditry.

2) Decided to come beat this horse a bit. I've been reading articles by Derbyshire on his web site and columns at the NRO. Odd character. Novels, non-fiction books on Reimann, self-published stuff. His mathematical non-fiction has gotten awards so I assume it's quite worthy, but at the same time his article >Will Obama Kill Science? is a horribly simple-minded understanding of the current state of the "nature/nurture" debate.

That piece really isn't about science, it's about one tiny piece of research, which he thinks is best exemplified by that old book The Bell Curve. You see in Derbyshire's world, all the liberals (and cultural Marxists, a term he uses) are trying to shut down any research that doesn't show people to be the same, again exemplified by The Bell Curve, and if that happens we will have shut down the search for the Truth. Since identifying how various groups are different is the sum of all interesting science. Curse those liberals!

This seems to connect to the opinions expressed in the quotes here in that he has these ideas of what people are like, and apparently he's very drawn to ones that group people by gender and ethnicity -- at least that's all he cites. Haven't read his works, but I bet he doesn't go study up on differences that don't fall along these lines.

In the quotes here, women all want to nurture, because that's how women are you know, and simultaneously they want someone else to take care of "their" kids. How they want to nurture and yet not take care of their kids is a bit confusing, but I'm sure he'd make it clear to us given the opportunity. Perhaps women are also lazy or have no ability to follow through with their desires? (Not as rational as men, I suppose, but I probably am putting words in his mouth now, though it's certainly suggested since in Derby-Land women are driven by these biological needs that few can resist so as to vote like men.)

And, of course, women don't want to take care of "their" children. Derbyshire's a big fan of biology, so he might want to be reminded that it takes two to create one of those things we call children, so there really aren't any children that are just from women (artificial insemination exempted, I suppose).

But men aren't inclined to help out much. I find that interesting as I pick my son up from school and drop him off. Naturally, it's just the two of us when my wife has a meeting or trip. When the Vice-Principal calls, it's me who goes to find out what he's done, and when the nurse calls, it's me who usually stays at home. (I don't mean to say that I do everything and N doesn't. Due to the fact that I study on Sundays and one night a week, she probably ends up with more B time overall. The point is I and many dads are in fact involved in our children's lives.) Perhaps I'm the exception that proves the Derby Rule, however.

But is Derbyshire upset with the men who created this child they don't want to help take care of? Seemingly not. It's "their" kids after all, "their" being women.

The real killer, however, is indeed in what Colmes points out (at least as quoted here). Derbyshire thinks he's a believer in freedom and yet doesn't really want any groups of people to vote unless they more often agree with him politically. That thought is the death of democracy and freedom. Women vote differently than him, and so they really shouldn't vote. Who else? He doesn't want slavery, but African-Americans vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Perhaps the world would be a better place if we took away their votes as well? Jews?

Derbyshire actually hints here that women are incapable of voting well, due to this supposed need to nurture and simultaneous laziness. (I feel like someone needs to create "Need to Nurture" t-shirts.) And this highlights one of the reasons some people do get worried about research looking into differences between the sexes or different ethnic groups. It's because people such as Derbyshire aren't trying to get a complicated, in-depth picture of the human race. They instead like to seize on some result that matches what they think and then use that to justify what they already believe.

The large majority of scientific studies that find differences between groups of people don't find anything categorical (some developmental work with children might be an exception; there are certain things that kids really don't get at all until a certain age, then, bam, they all get it). Instead, they find a higher correlation between one variable (attitude, intelligence measures, problem-solving behaviors, linguistic features, whatever) and another, such as gender identification. Both groups display immense variability, but on average there's a slight sway one way or another. The partisan then grabs that as evidence of what women are like and recommends cutting these funds or doing away with this program or whatever. Because now "it's based on science". But of course that's a silly way to understand the result.

Then, a few year's later there will be a follow up study which shows that it wasn't gender identification which was the best determining factor, but some other feature, often behavioral, which happened to be more common in the women who participated in the study. In other words, it wasn't a gender thing at all, but a cultural one that may or may not be common across cultures.

But it's too late, because the program was cancelled.

This doesn't mean that research on gender and ethnicity shouldn't be done. In fact it is done all the time. I'm just spelling out why some have political reservations about it.

Rant done.

Moral for the Trivia Game and in General

I was about to post this to the Trivia Game notes, but I decided it has a ring to it, so I will post it here:

What I couldn't accomplish through intelligence or skill, I accomplished through persistence.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Not key lime pie strictly speaking

I bought these limes at the Kapiolani Community College farmer's market about a week ago and so I needed to do something with them. Well, key lime pie of course!

Except they aren't key limes; they're just limes of some other umm non-key sort.



I made the pie anyway.

Graham cracker crust:
1.5 cups of crushed graham crackers
4 TBs of butter, which wasn't enough, so I poured in some pecan oil until it looked moist enough to press. Press into pie pan.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes at 350, then let cool.


4 egg yolks
one can of condensed milk
1/2 cup of lime juice.

Mix the egg yolks together with the condensed milk until well blended. Add in the lime juice. Pour into the pie crust.


Every topping for this that I found online involved either whipped cream or a meringue. I've never made a meringue before, but I had these 4 whites in a bowl from the filling, so I gave the meringue a try.

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar (supposedly superfine is better, but I made it through with granulated sugar, sugar mama (John Lee Hooker reference))
1/4 tsp of cream of tartar

Now, I actually have a big powerful Kitchen Aid mixer that N's dad sent to us as a present a few years ago, but it was behind all this stuff, and it sure seemed a pain to get that thing out from the back corner, so I decided to just whip the meringue by hand.

Do not do that.

Well, unless you are trying to lose weight in your forearm. Seriously, how did those French pastry chefs in the 19th century whip out meringue pies all day long? They must have had forearms that weighed more than the rest of their body. I can clearly tell that they moved about by bouncing on the forearm muscles from one place to the next. You just flex one of those puppies and bounce to the next location. I think I spent half an hour whipping this thing, and I had to get N to jump in at least 2 times to give me a break.

So just get out the mixer. Don't do it by hand unless you're going for meringue bragging rights.

Which I am. I rule. You suck, you electric mixer meringue people. You call that a meringue?!

Electric pansy.

Whip the egg whites slowly so that they are full of bubbles. Add in the cream of tartar and continue whipping until soft peaks form. This should occur right around the time that American Idol 22 crowns the winner. Good news: you won't have missed a single episode by living your life. Now, add in the entire cup of sugar... wait for it... 1 TB at a time. That's right. A cup added one TB at a time. Because you have nothing else to do and, when it comes down to it, your life is a puddle of emptiness seeping into a void over an abyss.

Add the TB and whip some more. Add another, whip. You get the idea. Just whip it. Into shape. Shape it up. Get straight. Go for it. Move ahead. Try to detect it. It's not too late. To whip it.

All together.... Whip it good!

Whip until you give up or the soft peaks become stiffer peaks. (Actually, you can get away with softer peaks if you are doing a pie and not one of those baked meringue confections. So I am totally still manly even if I may not have been as stiff as others had wished for. It's totally natural and happens to most men at some time or another. It doesn't mean we aren't attracted to pie anymore. It's a physical reaction and you really shouldn't read so much into it. About meringues I mean.)

Spoon the meringue on top of the pie and place the pie in the oven that is still preheated at 350. Bake for, like, 15 minutes or something. The meringue should be browning on top. Remove. Cool on a rack for a while, then cool in the fridge for 8 hours.

This is what it looked like in rather fuzzy pics:

I may have a little too much meringue there, but you know how I loooove making meringue by hand. Uh huh.

Punditry with Real-Time Polling

Another brilliant satire video from the Onion. Why does this not feel inaccurate to me, however?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Seeing numbers

Yahoo's Live Science just posted an article about scientists using brain imaging to see the neural representation of numbers and patterns of dots in people's brains. I added a comment in the "Buzz Log" about why this could be a really big moment in science, and so I'm copying that here:

This is very, very cool, and could be seen as a breakthrough in cognitive science. The way most psychology works as of today is that the scientist thinks of a pattern that fits data, and then we guess that something like that pattern is what's actually in our minds. But this is because we've had no direct way to see what the mind was doing. We could only see general areas in use before with brain imaging. However, if they can truly see the way the brain is representing certain objects, then that could let us study how those objects are manipulated by the brain, which then let's us stop guessing about the mind and start observing how thought works.

Super cool!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dress Like a Pirate Day

20 years ago next Spring, I was a 16 year old senior in high school and I appeared in our Spring production of the Pirates of Penzance. I was a lovely pirate in Act I and a policeman in Act II. A friend of mine posted some pics of that production on Facebook, and I've charmingly stolen them and posted them here. I am pretty sure I have the exact same pictures stored in a warehouse in Louisiana.

That's me with the black pirate hat right in the middle of the boat with the arm in the air. I believe the lovely pirate ship had just rolled on stage and the Pirate King in shadow behind me will soon sing, "For I am a Pirate Kiiiinnnnggggg!"

And here I am with our hero, Frederick. The person playing Frederick went on to a substantial career in theater, such as helping found 2nd Generation in NY, and I've talked about him in the past.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Singing in the Rain

B and I watched Singing in the Rain tonight. Think it's the first time I've ever actually seen the whole movie, and it had B up and dancing. And so, I thought I'd repost this item I wrote almost 4 years ago now:

Ever since I was a kid I've always had the idea that being able to tap dance would be really cool. I don't know if it's the rhythm thing or what. I've had little desire to learn to do any other form of dance and I have no actual natural talent at dancing. I took a movement class as part of a theater camp at the U of Texas, when I was a junior in high school so... 1989, and in our little recital they put me in the far back corner. In college I studied Tai Chi from my Chinese prof and thought I was doing OK, so when I was in China I showed my friends the first few motions I had learned and they burst out into laughter. Similar results when I was learning to do some Japanese Noh-style movements once in an audition - I was asked to be the stage manager. I have no accelerated ability to dance. But regardless one day, maybe when I'm 40 and have tenure and a bit of free time, I'm going to take a class, strap on my shoes, let all the 21 year old jazz dancers giggle at me, and do my best Fred Astaire. So there.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Great Division....

Terrific post for the economically innocent such as myself over at The Moderate Voice blog today. It's a simple report on economic tendencies with two remarkable items. The first is the less politically charged one, which is the unravelling of the so-called "Great Compression". This Great Compression is when America transformed through WWII from a land of haves and havenots into a land of the middle class, the world which most of us grew up in. Since the mid to late 80s, about the time I was in high school, wealth has divided again. It's hard to know exactly why this has happened, but I would hazard that it's part of the change in economic focus from manufacturing to service more than anything else. It is also the dismantling of many LBJ social programs, but I don't know if that's important or not.

The more politically controversial fact is that the recent Bush administration has the dubious distinction of being the only two-term President to preside over a decline in income since WWII as well. And, and this is the important part, it is not because of the recession that started in 2007. Even when the economy was growing overall from 2000 to 2007, the average income was falling. The bottom just fell out even more then.

What to do about it is of course a very good question, and I cannot answer it. But it's the right question to be asking.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My fave garage rock / pop band

The Donnas

And for those on Facebook where the links don't show, let's try this one:

Friday, September 04, 2009

Yurihwa 유 리 화

I think I got my Hangul right there, but I can't quite see it clearly.... Anyway, I have finally finished watching my first ever Korean drama, i.e., soap opera. Yurihwa or Stained Glass. I think I watched Episode 1 sometime in June and just watched Episode 18, the last, tonight.

For those new to K-drama, they are not quite like any format on U.S. television that I'm aware of. They're many episodes long, 15, 20, 30, so much longer than a miniseries, but they don't go on forever like an American soap opera. Instead there's one story that takes place over 20 hours.

In this one, I got to watch the travails of Ji-Soo, Dong-Wu, and Gi-Tae in a long and dramatic love triangle. Is Dongwu the arrogant rich jerk that he shows when he's in Japan as Yuichi, or is he the kind, loyal, and romantic Dongwu in Korea? Will Ji-Soo choose Gi-Tae, the friend who's been by her side for years taking care of her after he parents died when she was a teen, or Dong-Wu, the new man that she can't stop thinking about? And do we really know who Dong-Wu is anyway? Secrets abound! Coincidences coincidence! And what of her father.....

You get the idea. Here's a video containing various clips from about the first 5 episodes.

Many people say that this is not the best of K-drama. My co-author really enjoyed one called, in English Palace or Princess Diaries or something similar. You can get them from Netflix if you've got 20 hours to spend.