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Sun, Nov. 18th, 2012, 11:27 am

So, I should've written this in the first half of the month. Eh well, other fish to fry.

So, Movember.

In theory I think this is a cute idea. Do something visible as part of a simultaneous fundraising and awareness campaign.

However, I'm deeply concerned about how it works out in practice. The Movember focus is specifically on fundraising for "men's cancers," i.e. prostate and testicular cancer. It's a major international campaign, with branches in like twenty countries, so this is not an afterthought; I can only assume it's deliberately set up as a male counterpart to the various breast cancer initiatives that have risen to greater prominence in the last twenty years or so.

The problem here is that prostate and testicular cancer really aren't that important. Heresy, I know... but testicular cancer is both very rare and very treatable, at 0.4% incidence rates and 90-100% cure rates.

Prostate cancer is more common, but we don't *need* large amounts of money devoted to research on this; as it is, screenings diagnose far more cancers than actually require medical action, and most treatment causes more harm from the complications than was prevented by stopping the cancer. We could be improving the sensitivity of the tests and developing better treatment methods, to be sure; but this is really not that big of a problem. (Although note, the incidence is pretty similar to that of breast cancer.)

What's the real biggest threat to men's health, the real thing that people passionate about men's health should be most focused on? Heart disease. It's not sexy, but it is a men's health issue, affecting men more than women. Moreover, it's an excellent target for an awareness campaign: the rate of sudden cardiac death outside the hospital setting suggests most people simply don't know what a heart attack feels like, and their lives could be saved if they understood earlier on what was happening. Best of all, there are huge lifestyle components contributing to heart disease, specifically around men's living habits that could be changed -- men drink more, smoke more, eat more meat, are socialized to handle stress far worse than women, and just generally don't take care of themselves.

And really to my mind that should be the goal here: getting men to take better care of themselves, to see doctors when they don't feel well, to eat less meat; and moving toward a reformed conception of masculinity other than the isolated rock holding up a family or bottling all the stress inside. That's what someone passionate about men's health would do: wear your mustache with pride, but make it a commitment to live a healthier life and inspire the men around you to do so.

tl;dr it just kills me that my movembrist friends are also the guys least likely to take care of the significant risk factors that make cardiac disease the number one men's health problem.

Wed, Nov. 7th, 2012, 10:32 pm

This comes out of a conversation from elsewhere which I dropped because I didn't want to badger anyone. It's still of interest to me, I wrote up the following a few months back (when it was more relevant -- what, I've been busy), and it seems like as good an excuse as any to scrape some of the dust bunnies off this blog...

I've put forward the proposition that "the essence of unwanted sexual attention, like all unwanted attention, is that the person giving it doesn't care whether the other person is interested."

I find this an intuitive definition that holds up to analysis.

Forget the sexual-attention aspect entirely; let's just look at a nonsexual conversation: Alice wants to tell Bob about her Pokemans. Bob doesn't care; he isn't yet explicitly telling her to go away, but he shows no signs of interest and is semi-subtly looking for a way out of the conversation.

There are fourish possibilities here to my mind:
1) Alice knows Bob's bored.
2) Alice suspects Bob might be bored, but makes the assumption that favors her interests.
3) Alice genuinely has no idea whether Bob is bored or not, and doesn't care enough to find out.
4) Alice actually thinks Bob is interested.

In 1-3, Alice doesn't care about Bob's level of interest. She just wants to talk about her level 45 Charizard*, and she cares more about getting what she wants than whether she's having a mutual interaction with Bob.
Additionally, she's relying on some form of privilege to allow her to not have to worry about Bob's interest level--she has some reason to know the conversation will continue for at least a little while even if he'd rather be anywhere else. Maybe she's his boss; maybe she just knows that he personally is (or members of his church or whatever are) socialized to be overly polite; maybe Alice is popular and Bob's worried that his friends will call him names if he doesn't hear her out for a while; maybe there are other power-differential or privilege-differential axes at play: point is she knows, at least unconsciously, & relies on some reason that Bob's not going to tell her to shut up and walk away from her, so she can focus just on what she wants to get out of the interaction without having to care about his interest.

That leaves Situation 4: Alice grossly misreads social cues. This could be! But barring a psychological problem, it's not a situation that can persist for long without her apathy about Bob's interest level being involved somehow. Sooner or later she'd notice that nobody wants to be alone with her or talk with her; even if she's really dense and can't figure it out, some friend or another would probably tip her off. (And as far as sexual dynamics goes, there's an entire genre of internet commentary at this point explaining why you shouldn't harass uninterested strangers with tales of your Jigglypuff. Ahem.) Anyway, the diagnostic test to identify a Case 4 is pretty simple: if Alice does care about Bob's interest, then when she eventually learns Bob is bored, she'll feel bad about it. Conversely, if she gets mad at him for not being interested, she's being further entitled: she's reinforcing the clear point that she cares more about getting what she wants than making sure she and Bob have a mutually comfortable and enjoyable interaction.

Note that "feeling bad" doesn't mean she gets to badger Bob to forgive her, whether for her own self-image or to encourage him not to tell his friends she's a bore; it means that she genuinely misread his interest, she'll correct her behavior, leave him alone if he wants, and try to learn from the interaction to better gauge her counterparty's interest in the future.

The fact that caring about your interlocutor's enjoyment is part of what makes you a good conversationalist, well that's just a bonus. But all else aside, even if Alice can coast on privilege indefinitely, it's definitely in her interest to learn to read the Bobs of the world & shade her interactions with them toward mutual interest.

Now unless she's psychologically incapable of learning to read social cues (a proposition I find highly suspect, but we'll let it stand), she's gotta fall in 1-3: she doesn't care enough about what other people think to learn how to gauge their interest. And yes, that is her responsibility; the rest of the world is not responsible for listening to her just because she can't be bothered to figure out who cares about Pokemon and who doesn't. Geeks or others who "are bad at social cues" don't get a pass here. Reading cues is a learned skill which none of us did as kids (where else did "let me show you my pokemans" come from??) If anything, geeks are supposed to be good at learning new things and observing patterns. The problem is geeks have been coasting on the tolerance of others: having been isolated, we've internalized the idea that nobody deserves to be ignored; we've come to act like setting boundaries is "being mean." So pushover geeks don't set boundaries, which teaches boorish geeks that Case 2 is their friend. The boors and bores thus enjoy the privilege of skipping out on the hard work: reading other people and developing shared interests with those you want to socialize with.

If so for conversations, how much more for flirting or sex?

* (Do Pokemon have levels? I don't even know...)

Tue, Feb. 16th, 2010, 10:41 pm

I am consistently accused of being unable to recognize similarities between faces. So when I remarked the other day that the promo poster of Johnny Depp as the Creepy Technicolor Mad Hatter looked like it was Elijah Wood, people totally blew it off.

But there are REASONS for my insanity! See, look at that image. The way Depp's face is made up makes his face look squarer, yet with deeper cheeks and more prominent cheekbones, than he usually does (note that the face looks a lot longer & thinner). But those are definitely traits of Elijah Wood's face, especially when you consider that I mainly know EW from LotR, and his eyes were heavily shadowed in a lot of that epic (think especially the gaunter shots towards the end, or when he's on the horse with Arwen, although google image searching is not being my friend for a good example there).

But the REAL clincher is that little gap in the front teeth. Yeah, baby -- Johnny Depp doesn't usually have one, but you know who does? That's right.

Can my visual-cue-recognition skills be vindicated now plz??

Sun, Mar. 29th, 2009, 12:56 pm
Details to follow


I got in a bike accident yesterday.

First things first, I seem to be fine right now. I was worried that I'd broken my tailbone, but I think that I mostly landed on muscle and that I've mostly got muscle soreness. I'll be getting fully checked out tomorrow (probably some nice x-rays), but I'm not going to an emergency room for something that doesn't hurt too much. Though come to think, the area of my backside that was hurt was right where the chain sits, so I wonder if that wasn't part of what happened.

As for the accident itself, it was entirely my fault. I was in a hurry to get home and my mind was elsewhere, so I wound up running a red light when I didn't have as much visibility as I thought I did. After I'd gotten through the crosswalk I looked over to see a guy going probably 10-15 above the speed limit (30) through his green light.

This is the part that keeps replaying in my mind. My thoughts were totally stuck: "I cannot stop in time. I cannot speed up to pass this car, and he cannot brake. I am going in front of that car and I will be crushed." I don't recall what I did or what decision I made exactly--I must have braked and turned to make it a glancing blow--but the next conscious thought I had was realizing that I would hit the side of the car instead of going in front. Bracing for impact, and being incredibly relieved that I'd laid it down, I wasn't going in front of the car or under the tires.
Then, of course, i was on the street in the middle of an intersection, sharp pain in my lower back, but on my feet and dragging my bike out of the intersection as fast as I could (what with there still being oncoming traffic) while muttering about how that was completely my fault.

The guy pulled over and was completely cool about it all. He made sure I was okay, I apologized about his car (though it looked like I didn't cause any damage, just some wipe-away black streaks). He double-checked that I was all right, and I told him I was fine, just needed to sit down for a bit, which I did. Then tried to fix my bike; a passerby a few minutes later stopped to help, but noticed that the sprocket was bent so I wasn't going to get anywhere. He told me about a local bike shop around the way, but I was 8 blocks from home so I said I'd just walk it back and have it fixed up here. Overall, the front sprocket, the front fender, possibly the front wheel, and the magnetic post that holds the bike together when folded, all are bent. But it looks like the damage should be reparable.

My damage should be reparable. I was lucky.

I was lucky to react the best I could after making a very stupid decision. I was lucky that the driver was totally friendly and sympathetic. I was lucky that, for all the people who may have called me "white devil" around here, there are still others who are totally happy to stop and help a fellow cyclist fix a broken bike, or talk cheerfully with the guy walking a broken bike home. So I feel -- good, actually, about people; because people impressed me yesterday.

Wed, Feb. 18th, 2009, 01:14 pm
Tax cuts, fiscal stimulus, etc.

The thing people aren't realizing in this debate is that if you think of tax cuts as being good, there's no reason to oppose government spending instead. Because government spending is just like a tax cut -- it's the government giving some money to some people -- except that you have to work for it. Or, I should say, you get to work for it, since it's drawing from the pool of unemployed people.

Now, Republicans support tax cuts only, because they're allergic to work. No, really; they're the party that thinks that money is something you're supposed to just have, because you're good enough (or better enough) to have it. It's no fair if you have to go work for it...

Mon, Feb. 9th, 2009, 10:09 am

I'm sure I'm going to be one of, say, half a million whose response to this is "Awww, too bad so sad," but...

These people live in a bubble of irreality so far removed from the actual experience of living anywhere. They deserve to be cast down, to have those ridiculously overprivileged lives torn apart.

"Most well-to-do families take at least two vacations a year" huh? Most American families are lucky if they can squeeze out one. Everyone should be so lucky, but $16k and up for vacations alone? Absurdity.

Also, if you're paying the same amount in maintenance fees as you are in your mortgage -- I'm sorry, you're an idiot, and you're getting fleeced by your management. End of story. You can maintain an ENORMOUS private house in the suburbs for SIGNIFICANTLY LESS than $50k a year; if you're paying twice that for half the square footage, a doorman and an elevator? Then how were you ever entrusted with money in the first place?

Read the article for other examples of ridiculous excess, but look -- these people's ridiculous lives have to be destroyed. They have to be destroyed, because only once they are will housing prices come down for the rest of us; only once their grossly inflated, market-distorting salaries are gone will American households stop taking on unmanageable debt burdens just for the hope of buying a house in a decent school district. These people with their platinum-plated lives have privileges that, in some cases, are absurd, but in others, should be shared by all; and that will remain impossible so long as the incomprehensible income disparities persist.

Wed, Nov. 5th, 2008, 06:53 pm

I'm as ecstatic as everyone else.

I just have two things to say, though.

Let's not let this be just our side's version of who we'd rather have a beer with. Late in the campaign, Obama moved away from talking about starting a mass movement, of permanent political involvement on the part of Americans and our generation. But if this is going to mean anything, it can't just be a watershed moment; it has to be a permanent commitment on the part of the electorate to put into place people who will solve the problems we face, and to keep hold of the reins without falling asleep.

On that note -- "Yes we can" is not "yes we did," but something continuous. It is "yes it can be." But the difference between "can be" and "is" hinges on whether we realize the possibilities we dream of.
Change has not come. Change is not done. Change is always coming, and if we forget it, then nothing has changed at all.

Tue, Nov. 4th, 2008, 06:21 pm

OH! I meant to post this earlier --

just a thought. Barack Obama will be our first Black President. But he cannot be the first President to be descended from slaves; his father was African at birth, not African-American.

These two facts are not unrelated.

And I do not believe that the racial divide will be healed as much by this election as so many commentators seem to hope it will be; at the end of the day, it is not just black skin that keeps African Americans down, but being the heirs of slavery (and, consequently, of precious little else).

Since I always have to worry about something, here's my concern for the next four years: that the tremendous, overwhelming wave of support that Obama (and non-wingnut (he ain't terribly liberal) ideas, by association) gets this election will subside; too many people will think that our battles are won; and in two years, we'll see Their committed core voters come out more than Our committed core voters and take away the opportunity to make real gains. That this won't be a sea change, but just an isolated event.

Obviously, I really hope not. I'll have enough trouble getting used to moving from opposing everything the government does to criticizing it for being too centrist; I'd rather have a few more years to practice.

Tue, Nov. 4th, 2008, 05:51 pm

Funny... based on the (very convenient) polling place for my district, the political sign in the window of my apartment may actually be in violation of poll-line canvassing radius laws.

I wonder if the distance is calculated in two dimensions or three? Might actually make the difference in this case...

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