akashiver: (avatar)
Green Card!!!

It arrived when I was at ICFA. It is, in fact, green! Apparently I'm supposed to keep it on me at all times. I'm going to ask other immigrants about this, because I don't like taking important, hard-to-replace documents with me to the gym.

Green Card!!!

As I sat down to write this post the following Guardian article popped up in my Facebook feed: Why the Left is Wrong about Immigration .

I read it with interest, obviously. And I was left scratching my head. Maybe it's because I'm in the USA rather than Britain, and I don't know Britain's cultural immigration battles that well. But as an argument I thought it was deeply flawed.

Read more... )

As an argument against easy immigration, I give this article a C- . Being what Americans would call a "big government" person, I'm for the government exerting careful control over immigration,* but I'm anti-stupidity.

At some point I'm going to post a reflection on my immigration  experience & American politics. But not today.

*P.S. Americans: Why is it that the same people who support small government and free markets tend to be the  ones calling for more government control over the mobility of international laborers -- mobility that's dictated by the supply and demand of the free market?

In the news

Oct. 8th, 2012 09:17 am
akashiver: (Default)
From the NYT, an article about defining productivity by work produced, not hours spent: They Work Long Hours, but What About Results?
"...a measurement system based on hours makes no sense for knowledge workers. Their contribution should be measured by the value they create through applying their ideas and skills."
It's aimed at a different work environment than academia, but I still found parts of it useful. Most notably:
"In general, don’t waste your time creating A-plus work when B-plus is good enough. Use the extra time to create A-plus work where it matters most."

This I have to keep in mind, particularly for teaching.
akashiver: (Default)
An unusually sweet and reassuring piece for the Chronicle of Higher Ed. A lot of it rang painfully true for me, particularly the "I felt as if I had no future" part.

Turning 'Plan B' Into a 'Plan A' Life

"Perhaps no one who knows of me as an Oxford editor would think that is the case, but virtually everything in my life since my high-school graduation has been the result of not getting what I really wanted. To think about autobiography or personal history in a historical way, my life's course has been set by moments of contingency—when societal, economic, or familial forces collided with internal forces, usually despair, self-doubt, or personal rejection.

Without detailing what I really wanted, I will just say that I've come to appreciate that being No. 2 or lower on the hierarchy has made me who I am. That person is surely more resilient as a result, and there is extra sweetness in achieving what I have had to work hard to get."
akashiver: (Default)
I thought this profile piece was interesting:

A High-Profile Executive Job as Defense Against Mental Ills

Researchers have conducted more than 100,000 studies on schizophrenia since its symptoms were first characterized..... Now, a group of people with the diagnosis is showing researchers a previously hidden dimension of the story: how the disorder can be managed while people build full, successful lives. The continuing study — a joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Southern California; and the Department of Veterans Affairs — follows a group of 20 people with the diagnosis, including two doctors, a lawyer and a chief executive, Ms. Myrick.

The study has already forced its authors to discard some of their assumptions about living with schizophrenia. “It’s just embarrassing,” said Dr. Stephen R. Marder, director of the psychosis section at U.C.L.A.’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, a psychiatrist with the V.A. Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and one of the authors of the study. “For years, we as psychiatrists have been telling people with a diagnosis what to expect; we’ve been telling them who they are, how to change their lives — and it was bad information” for many people.

And then there's this:

285 Indian girls shed 'unwanted' names

More than 200 Indian girls whose names mean "unwanted" in Hindi have chosen new names for a fresh start in life. A central Indian district held a renaming ceremony Saturday that it hopes will give the girls new dignity and help fight widespread gender discrimination that gives India a skewed gender ratio, with far more boys than girls.

The 285 girls — wearing their best outfits with barrettes, braids and bows in their hair — lined up to receive certificates with their new names along with small flower bouquets from Satara district officials in Maharashtra state. ...."

Now in school, my classmates and friends will be calling me this new name, and that makes me very happy," said a 15-year-old girl who had been named Nakusa by a grandfather disappointed by her birth. She chose the new name "Ashmita," which means "very tough" or "rock hard" in Hindi.

akashiver: (beaker)
Texan freed after DNA clears him in wife's slaying

The case in Williamson County, north of Austin, will likely raise more questions about the district attorney, John Bradley, a Gov. Rick Perry appointee whose tenure on the Texas Forensic Science Commission was controversial. .... the Innocence Project has accused him of suppressing evidence that would have helped clear Morton sooner. That evidence — including a transcript of a police interview indicating that Morton's son said the attacker was not his father and that his wife's credit card and personal checks were used after she was killed — was ultimately obtained through a Texas Public Information Act request.

Bradley agreed Morton should be freed after the other man's DNA was tied to a similar slaying in January 1988 — after Morton was already in prison.

It always amazes me, in reading about cases like this one,  how members of the police and procecution can be so set on "being right" that they are willing to ignore or supress evidence of a person's innocence. 

Sure, we all suffer from "I'm never wrong" syndrome. But to put someone in jail for life, or execute them, rather than back down? Sheesh.
akashiver: (Default)

There's an interesting analysis of the country-but-country media portrayal of Amanda Knox  over at -- of all places -- Yahoo News. This is the second long, intelligent analytical piece I've seen at Yahoo News this week. What gives?
akashiver: (Default)
So I never mentioned Sady Doyle's George R.R. Martin piece in part because I didn't think it warranted the attention. Doyle clearly wanted to skewer the series. She makes some good points, she makes some funny points, and she also misses the mark.

Alyssa Rosenburg had a thoughtful response. To this I'd add that I have a problem with Doyle's pre-mockery of her respondents, and specifically her portrayal of them as 'nerds upset that she doesn't like their toys.'

For the record, when you begin a blog post with  sentences like "George R.R. Martin is creepy," you are not talking about toys. Last time I checked, Martin was a person.  

The fact that Doyle then uses this "toys" rhetoric to justify deleting critical comments is disturbing. I don't have a lot of respect for the author of an article about rape who  a) objectifies others b) uses this objectification to deny that she is actually talking about Real People and c) silences her critics rather than allowing their voices to be heard.

But reading Doyle's article did make me wish that I could point to a couple scenes of male rape in the GoT books, or in "gritty" high fantasy in general. It's not as though men don't get raped. They *particularly* run the risk of getting raped in war. But it's not a problem society likes to acknowledge in real life or in fiction.

Which brings me to this very interesting article in the Guardian: The Rape of Men.

Twenty-one per cent of Sri Lankan males who were seen at a London torture treatment centre reported sexual abuse while in detention. In El Salvador, 76% of male political prisoners surveyed in the 1980s described at least one incidence of sexual torture. A study of 6,000 concentration-camp inmates in Sarajevo found that 80% of men reported having been raped.

Not only does male rape happen, but all indicators point to it happening a lot in war. But it's almost never  reported. The reasons for this are steeped in patriarchy's construction of masculine power, and can have consequences that differ from those facing female rape victims.

Often, she says, wives who discover their husbands have been raped decide to leave them. "They ask me: 'So now how am I going to live with him? As what? Is this still a husband? Is it a wife?' They ask, 'If he can be raped, who is protecting me?' There's one family I have been working closely with in which the husband has been raped twice. When his wife discovered this, she went home, packed her belongings, picked up their child and left. Of course that brought down this man's heart."

In short, I think Martin's overdue to address male rape in Westeros. We've had at least one man get sexually tortured and mutilated, but so far male rape hasn't even been threatened.

(Or has it? Those books are so damn long I might have missed something.)
akashiver: (Default)

Here's an interesting article: Do you suffer from decision fatigue?

The idea that willpower is finite was familiar to me, but other parts were not:

To establish cause and effect, researchers at Baumeister’s lab tried refueling the brain in a series of experiments involving lemonade mixed either with sugar or with a diet sweetener. The sugary lemonade provided a burst of glucose, the effects of which could be observed right away in the lab; the sugarless variety tasted quite similar without providing the same burst of glucose. Again and again, the sugar restored willpower, but the artificial sweetener had no effect. 

This might seem to explain the "weight gain" problem connected with diet drinks. (Yes, I know: take a whole salt lick with that one.) To quote from a different part of the article:

[Dieters are] trapped in a nutritional catch-22:

1. In order not to eat, a dieter needs willpower.
2. In order to have willpower, a dieter needs to eat.

As the body uses up glucose, it looks for a quick way to replenish the fuel, leading to a craving for sugar. After performing a lab task requiring self-control, people tend to eat more candy but not other kinds of snacks, like salty, fatty potato chips. The mere expectation of having to exert self-control makes people hunger for sweets. 

And then there's this:

Spears and other researchers argue that this sort of decision fatigue is a major — and hitherto ignored — factor in trapping people in poverty. Because their financial situation forces them to make so many trade-offs, they have less willpower to devote to school, work and other activities that might get them into the middle class.

....Spears urges sympathy for someone who makes decisions all day on a tight budget. In one study, he found that when the poor and the rich go shopping, the poor are much more likely to eat during the shopping trip. This might seem like confirmation of their weak character.... But if a trip to the supermarket induces more decision fatigue in the poor than in the rich ... by the time they reach the cash register, they’ll have less willpower left to resist the Mars bars and Skittles. 

Interesting, no?


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