Saturday, November 08, 2014

What to Grumble About. Or Trivial Complaints for Saturday.

This will be fun!  The curmudgeon goddess gets to talk!  Usually it's the goddess of gloom.

First complaint:  Imagine getting in your car early in the morning, ready to drive to work, and someone has changed all the dials around and the gear-stick is now on the other side of the driver's seat.  You get a little message when you power on, telling you that all is now "new and improved."

That never happened to you?  Well, it's happened to me three times during the last week, but not in the car.  At my computer.  The people who change things around never seem to put any weight on the problem I've tried to clarify with the above parable:  Learning is a cost to the users, and changes in the system should take that cost into account.

Second complaint:  How microwave ovens and other domestic gadgets are designed to make cleaning as impossible as possible (heh).   The designers never did any cleaning?  The designers have large investments in the toothpick and Q-tip industries?  The designers hope that consumers buy another product when the previous one is full of gunk and goo?

Here's another (though trivial) reason why we need more women in design, not because there's anything gender-essentialist about women and cleaning, but because women are more likely to have cleaned such gadgets in the past than men and more likely to have to clean them in the future, sadly.  This article gives you more reasons for getting more women in the STEM field.

I don't get why consumers don't rise up and demand gadgets which are cleanable and which last longer.  Those would be better for the environment, too. 

Third complaint:  I don't have a third complaint today.  But one needs to count to at least three to get a listicle!  And listicles are the new face of online journalism.  That might work as the last trivial complaint.

Have a complaints video:

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Speed Posting, 11/6/14: On Pickup Artists, the Gamergate and Street Harassment

1.  Julien Blanc, a PUA (pickup artist) is giving heterosexual men expensive seminars on how to talk to women, with the pu**y as the goal.  The way you get a woman's interest is by grabbing her head and sticking it to your dick, to quote the speaker's own words.  I'm not sure if you are supposed to say "hi" first or just attack the first woman that walks by you in the street.  This guy crawled from under some weird rock, all slimy and tentacled (apologies to all the slimy and tentacled creatures for that comparison) and equipped with something like the Rapist's Bible, based on the messages he has left in social media.  More about this charming individual:

Mr. Blanc, who describes himself as the executive coach for Real Social Dynamics, makes a living selling men the “important investment” of his advice in the fine art of picking up women. It’s a course he calls PIMP, that includes techniques in “How to destroy her Bitch Shield,” by among other things, commanding women to “Get down on your knees, call me Master, and BEG ME to kiss you…”  
His views on Japanese women are a bit like someone's views on sushi.  If you get my meaning.  Women are prey, and different types of prey animals are either easier or harder to catch.  But the Great White Hunter does really well in Tokio!  Head to dick, you know.  (I watched the video).

Blanc is now facing opposition online,  and one hotel in Australia has dumped his planned series of academic lectures on the fine art of seducing a woman (head to dick, head to dick).  That's because the students would probably want to practice what they learn with the hotel guests, like how to break through her Bitch Shield, how to make her kneel and call him the master etc.

2.  The Gamergate continues.  I found this post by a man pretty interesting.  He cannot take the harassment he is getting, and he's on the Gamergate side (the side which worries about ethics in game journalism and only harasses women sorta accidentally).  Not surprisingly, he gets most harassment from his own side. 

This YouTube spoof based on the Hitler movie which has been used for many, many similar spoofs is very funny if you have followed the Gamergate.

3.  Finally, more on the street harassment video. People in New Zealand redid the experiment and the woman in that video didn't get any cat calls whatsoever.  As I wrote in my earlier post on this, the phenomenon is cultural and shows great local variations.  Some countries are worse than others (Italy has a long history of street harassment as men's entitlement, Cairo is very bad, based on what I have read), and even in the US cities vary in this culture.

That is good news, because cultures can be changed.

And here's Collie Myerson on the first NYC video and the question of the harassers' race and ethnicity.   We need similar videos taken in different parts of cities, in different countries (I've seen one from Egypt) and with women of different race and ethnicity before there's anything like a full picture on street harassment of women.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Morning After The Midterm Elections

It's not the morning but I was up most of the night so there.  The results were as predicted by historical patterns for midterms but worse than that for Democrats.  At the same time several pretty progressive initiatives won.  For example, raising the minimum wages got support in five states which are not exactly deeply blue states:

Voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota supported proposals to raise wages for their lowest-paid workers–an issue that is of particular concern for small employers, who tend to operate on thinner margins. Illinois approved a non-binding measure, which won’t immediately change the current law.

And both North Dakota and Colorado rejected the Egg-American-Rights initiatives:

The radical “personhood” movement was dealt a significant blow on Tuesday night, when voters in North Dakota and Colorado resoundingly defeated two ballot initiatives that would have redefined life to extend legal protections to fertilized eggs.

But then there is this, from Charlie Pierce, on all the election results (read the whole thing):

I think it was contemplating the fact that both Sam Brownback and Paul LePage both may have survived as governors that was the last straw for me tonight. Brownback has wrecked his state. Even Kansas Republicans believe that. LePage is a local embarrassment who became a national embarrassment in the final days before the election. Even Maine Republicans believe that. But Brownback will go back to wrecking his state, and LePage will go back to embarrassing his because of an attitude that Republicans, and the conservative movement that has powered the party, have cultivated carefully over the last three decades.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Ebola Panic Epidemic Continues

A teacher in Louisville, Kentucky, resigned because of the Ebola panic in the US:

Susan Sherman, a religious education teacher who is also a registered nurse, was recently on a mission in Kenya in eastern Africa. When she returned, St. Margaret Mary school requested she take a precautionary 21-day leave and produce a health note from her doctor, according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Louisville.
How close did Susan Sherman go to the areas of Ebola?  This map gives you an idea if you remember that Kenya is on the right edge of the African continent:

Kenya is shown on this map:

I'm too lazy to figure out the distance from Kenya to the nearest country which does have people with Ebola.  But it's sort of wanting to quarantine people who have been to Louisiana because Oregon had some illness.

All these reactions may be understandable, because of the hind-brain response to new and poorly understood threats.  But information is the proper vaccination here, and information seems sorely lacking.  And some politicians play on that fear.

Speaking of Ebola and politics, can you even imagine what would happen if the party in power during a real Ebola epidemic in the US were the one which wants to choke the public health care system to almost-death and save lots of money through privatizations?  Vote.  It's important.

Monday, November 03, 2014

VOTE, in the USA

In the US the day of the midterm elections is tomorrow.  Most forecasts predict a Republican House and Senate*.  That means the bus which was stopped for a few years will, once again, start careening towards the abyss.

But whatever your political views might be you should vote, rather than skip the midterm election.

You should especially vote if other people try to stop you from voting by direct actions, such as the movement trying to stop voter fraud not at the machines (where it's probably a bit more likely) but by mostly imaginary illegal voters.  The impact of the movement that requires specific types of IDs in order to vote hits the poor harder, hits the elderly harder, and hits the minorities harder.

Then there are the recent statements by various right-wingers arguing that young women shouldn't vote because they are too stupid to vote.  One way to respond to that is to list all the possible classes of people who might be too stupid to vote, but I won't stoop that low.  The point is that the right to vote was won with great sacrifices and should be treasured by the simple act of using it as it was intended:  Vote.

It takes less time than a dental cleaning** and is much more pleasurable.

*Largely because the competitive slots are mostly in Republican-leaning areas and because midterm elections tend to favor the party which doesn't have the presidency.  But general apathy also matters, and these predictions are not the same as final outcomes. Less than a thousand votes gave George Bush Jr. the presidency and all that followed from it.  Thus, it's never safe to assume that your vote or its absence wouldn't matter.

**Assuming you don't belong to one of those groups which others try to stop from voting.  Then it might take longer.

Working Too Hard

Esther Kaplan writes about Americans who work too hard.  One consequence of the "jobless recovery" can be exactly that:  Fewer people doing far more work.

That can have serious consequences, because people are human, need rest and sleep, and make mistakes if they are overworked. 

Most of Kaplan's examples come from hospitals, though it should be noted that treating nurses as if the nursing forests were full of dead trees in need of felling is a longer term trend*.  But similar concerns apply to other "post-recovery" industries, including schools, factories, mines and stores.  Overwork can kill or hurt, and the victims are not only the workers themselves.

As an aside, this aspect of working very hard is seldom addressed in the moral sermons about the need to work hard rather than to ask for help.  Nobody is at their best after a twenty-hour shift in a hospital, say, and I wouldn't want someone investing my money (to give an utterly imaginary example!) after they have been working twelve to fourteen hours without a lunch break.  I don't want truck drivers on the roads without adequate sleep and breaks, either. 

Then there are the related concerns:  Workers have families and if workers are always supposed to be working (at least always available for work), the family duties will suffer.

At least many nurses have unions.  The non-unionized workers have few options when the labor markets push them into the choice of working incredibly long or tiring hours or not working at all.
*Caused by a complex mixture of events:  Less severe patients are sent home so the average case-mix in the hospitals is sicker, even if there might be fewer patients overall, the pressures to cut costs by reducing the staff at hospitals, especially in for-profit hospitals, and the fact that defining the output of nurses is difficult and can be debated over.  For instance, which tasks should be performed by nurses and which can be performed by other, less expensive staff, is something that can be manipulated.