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Saturday, March 05, 2011

More Chinese Bust Enhancement Technology

(via WTF du jour)

I was going to say that this was like Top Charming without the goofy testimonials, but they had some from the middle onwards.

But at least this product won't give you cancer.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Links - 3rd March 2011

"Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday." - Don Marquis


Singapore’s most tech-enabled taxi - "Comfort DelGro (the taxi company) has not stopped him from outfitting his taxi, but they have warned him that should they receive negative feedback from passengers, he will have to remove everything from his taxi"
Apparently one piece of negative feedback, no matter how inane, will outweigh all the positive reviews from his clients. So one idiot can ruin things for everyone. Hell, a jealous rival could just pretend to be an irate passenger

Twitter is a playground for spiteful Lefty bullies - "I... was called a "c***", a "t***" and a "spoof figure" with "archaic views" who was "an embarrassment to young people". A charity worker near where I live expressed her desire to, in her words, cut me up... Moir wrote a piece that asked tough but pertinent questions about a gay culture that may have contributed to Stephen Gately's death. She was pounced on by the offence brigade and branded "homophobic"... why are bullying and death threats now considered a socially acceptable way to express disagreement with someone in a public forum? And how come it always seems to be the Left doing the shouting?... Twitter rather disproves the case that forcing people to "own" their remarks might move them to be more reasonable... with a media increasingly taking its cues from Twitter and Facebook, platforms colonised by spoilt urban liberals, won't the so-called "silent majority" of Middle England become even more disenfranchised, and, consequently, suffer still further from under-representation and ridicule?"
Why were the Bolsheviks and the Nazis so similar?

Great Gatsby 'Nintendo' game released online - "The San Francisco developer, Charlie Hoey, actually created, coded and published the game with the help of his friend Pete Smith as a tribute to their nostalgic love of old NES games"

Cool car plate much? on Twitpic

Onward & Upward With the Arts: Listen To This - "For at least a century, [classical] music has been captive to a cult of mediocre élitism that tries to manufacture self-esteem by clutching at empty formulas of intellectual superiority... A complete version of the Death of Classical Music Archive would go back to the fourteenth century, when the sensuous melodies of ars nova were thought to signal the end of civilization... [Composers] have gone through a rough stretch in the past hundred years, facing external obstacles (Hitler and Stalin were amateur music critics) as well as problems of their own invention (“Why doesn’t anyone like our beautiful twelve-tone music?”)... There may be kids out there who lost their virginity during Brahms’s D-Minor Piano Concerto, but they don’t want to tell the story and you don’t want to hear it... At an early performance of “Parsifal,” listeners hissed an unmusical vulgarian who yelled out “Bravo!” after the Flower Maidens scene. The troublemaker had reason to feel embarrassed; he had written the opera. The Wagnerians were taking Wagner more seriously than he took himself—an alarming development... Jazz was satisfying a hunger for popular art that in previous eras only classical composers had been able to satisfy... All music becomes classical music in the end"

Diabetic's discrimination lawsuit against sushi restaurant is hard to swallow
Diabetic sues sushi restaurant for not letting him skip the rice in a sushi buffet

The new face of porn - "Now there is porn for everyone. Literally. There are websites that have audio recordings describing pornographic websites for blind people (pornfortheblind.org...), porn full of saucy deaf people getting it on and using sign language to express their desires (deafbunny.com) and sites that cater to everything from our fear and fascination with Middle Eastern and Muslim women (arabstreethookers.com) to snot fetishes (seriously: see snotgirls.com if you dare)... the biggest irony may be that sexually empowered feminist women have gone from being critics of pornography to being major consumers of it. Pornography, like sex itself, is fraught with complexity and contradiction, but the failure of anti-porn feminism was ultimately positive. Out of its ashes came a new culture of porn that is serious and steadfast in its dedication to pleasure and politics"

Man arrested at Large Hadron Collider claims he's from the future - "Eloi Cole, a strangely dressed young man, said that he had travelled back in time to prevent the LHC from destroying the world... "Countries do not exist where I am from. The discovery of the Higgs boson led to limitless power, the elimination of poverty and Kit-Kats for everyone. It is a communist chocolate hellhole and I'm here to stop it ever happening""

Uniformed Letter Carrier with Child in Mailbag - "After parcel post service was introduced in 1913, at least two children were sent by the service"

Pedophilia a ‘sexual orientation’ experts tell Parliament - "“Pedophiles are not simply people who commit a small offence from time to time but rather are grappling with what is equivalent to a sexual orientation just like another individual may be grappling with heterosexuality or even homosexuality,” emphasized Van Gijseghem. “True pedophiles have an exclusive preference for children, which is the same as having a sexual orientation. You cannot change this person’s sexual orientation.” He added, however: “He may however remain abstinent.”"

John Dominic Crossan's 'blasphemous' portrait of Jesus - "Crossan's overarching message is that you don't have to accept the Jesus of dogma. There's another Jesus hidden in Scripture and history who has been ignored... The first Christians told Jesus' resurrection story as a parable, not as a fact... If you believe in a God that uses violence to "save" humanity, you'll start believing that violence is permissible in certain circumstances, such as suicide bombing or invading other countries to spread democracy, Crossan says. The human addiction to violence, though, is so ingrained that even the authors of the New Testament had trouble accepting Jesus' nonviolence, Crossan says. So they did a little editing. Crossan's proof: Jesus preaches nonviolence at the beginning of the New Testament. By the book of Revelation, he's leading armies through heaven to kill evildoers. "Christianity both admits and subverts the historical Jesus," Crossan says"

19th-century China: Clashing with the foreign devils | The Economist - "Sun Yat-sen... held the ethnic Manchus who controlled the dynasty in more contempt than the Westerners who had forcibly set up colonial enclaves, the Russians who had carved off part of Manchuria, or the Japanese who had taken Taiwan after a war in 1895. To keep the story simple, the [Communist] party prefers to view the Manchus as Chinese... Described now as a humiliation, the establishment of foreign settlements was not always seen this way by the Chinese. Mr Bickers says the arrangement was “simply a variant of the long-established practice of allowing sojourning communities to organise their own affairs”. The term “unequal treaties”, now routinely used in China to describe the agreements reached between foreign powers and the Qing government after several military defeats, was unknown until 1923. Chinese nationalism, portrayed by the party in terms suggesting it had always been a force, was slow and fitful in its 19th-century awakening... rising nations, eager to extend their global reach and easily riled by the slights of other powers, have a habit of behaving badly"

Cat-lover stole from Salvation Army to save strays - "Fined $2,000... Neo Chuan Seng, 54, a newspaper vendor had committed the offence in January last year. He pleaded guilty and told investigators that he had hoped to sell the clothes and use the proceeds to take care of stray and injured cats"
You know you're a crazy cat lover when cats are more important to you than humans

Sometimes Invasive Species Are Good - "Biologists are often biased against invasives, and decline to notice or report instances of beneficial invasions."

10 Reasons Why I Love Being A Woman (Take The Pledge!) - "1. I get to carry my babies around with me for 9 months and then bring them into the world.
2. I get to fall into the arms of the man I love, feeling accepted, protected and completely loved.
3. I get to wear high heels and flat shoes (and sandals and Fit-Flops).
4. I get to cut and grow out and colour my hair on a whim.
5. I get to ferry my kids from school to class to sailing to gym and drink bubble tea with them and talk.
6. The Singapore Woman’s Charter.
7. I get full licence to cry when I lose a body part. Aron Rolston had to be macho about it for 127 Hours.
8. I get to put on a bikini when I’m feeling skinny and a maillot when I’m feeling soggy.
9. When I’m down, all it takes is a new lip gloss—not a BMW—to cheer me up.
10. I never get my wee-wee caught in my jeans zipper.
11. I can still go for Zumba class no matter how old I get."
The flip side of "10 Reasons Why I Love Being A Woman" is "10 Reasons Why I Hate Being A Man"

Man loses $200K – and the girl – in online scam - "A Naperville man is out $200,000 after wiring money to an online girlfriend he didn’t realize was a fake"

Yoga vs Vodka (picture)

Blasphemy Law and the Marginalisation of Pakistan’s Moderate Muslims - "The outpouring of grief, condemnation and soul searching by liberal and moderate writers has conveyed an impression that there is widespread revulsion over the assassination. Nothing can be farther from the truth. According to Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, the ‘moderates’ have a strong presence only in the editorial pages of the English language press, the readership of which is not more than a few hundred thousand in a nation of close to 180 million people... street and state power has been steadily shifting away from this marginalised section, as is evident from million man marches in support of Qadri, the showering of rose petals on Qadri by Pakistani lawyers, and the difficulty of finding a cleric willing to read Taseer’s funeral prayers. Even worse, leading lights of the lawyers movement, who never tired of telling the world that they were fighting in defence of rule of law and a more liberal state, flatly refused to publicly condemn Qadri... the struggle in Pakistan is no longer between moderate and radical Islam, but between two competing versions of radical Islam... The best that the ‘moderates’ can come up with is that the fundamentalists do not represent the ‘silent majority"... “the phrase ‘silent majority’ in Pakistan can only be used in the context of its original meaning — it originates from Homer’s Odyssey, and refers to the dead who are in the majority as compared to the living”... What the ‘moderates’ cannot or don’t want to understand is that the extremists don’t need to win a majority in Parliament to push for what they want"
Keywords: Pakistan, extremism, moderates lost, English language newspapers, radicalism

Vatican confirms report of sexual abuse and rape of nuns by priests in 23 countries - "Most of the abuse has occurred in Africa, where priests vowed to celibacy, who previously sought out prostitutes, have preyed on nuns to avoid contracting the Aids virus... some [reports] have been in circulation for at least seven years... In extreme instances, the priests had made nuns pregnant and then encouraged them to have abortions... In one case in which an African sister was forced to have an abortion, she died during the operation and her aggressor led the funeral mass... a vicar in one African diocese had talked "quite openly" about sex, saying that "celibacy in the African context means a priest does not get married, but does not mean he does not have children"... One of the most tragic elements that emerges is the fate of the victims. While the offending priests are usually moved or sent away for studies, the women are normally chased out of their religious orders, they are then either to scared to return to their families or are rejected by them. they often finished up as outcasts, or, in a cruel twist of irony, as prostitutes, making a meagre living from an act they had vowed never to do"

An Exchange with Nature Mystics

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - Groucho Marx


A musing someone had on the right to use land sparked off a heated exchange on various issues related to the environment and Nature Mysticism. My course on Environmental Ethics had taught me that it was mostly rubbish, but this was a new level of questionability.

(I haven't had such a long Twitter exchange since the lactivists)

Due to the nature of Twitter exchanges I have organised the following roughly thematically, rather than chronologically.

On environmental obligations:

@exis10s: Do we have the right to use humans, animals, and land?

@looselyhuman: Re: Animals, we currently have a need, but not a right.
Ethically we should reduce the need (suffering) as much as possible.

@exis10s: I agree. I feel that our use of land is a problem too. That too negatively impacts the other animals.

@looselyhuman: Yeah, especially where it's not required for basic needs. I see it as a scale; as humans we get weighted a little.

Me: Are you vegetarian? Do you travel? Go to amusement parks? Read books? They all raise your carbon footprint

@exis10s: they do! That's what sucks! Just by being American I am, to borrow a term, sinning.

@looselyhuman: I do as little of all these as I possibly tolerate and remain sane, as is my duty.

Me: If people could go insane without travel, could the same be true of meat?

@looselyhuman: I eat very little meat, not none. I am deeply aware of the suffering I cause, and that is part of my responsibility.

@looselyhuman: Ethically we should reduce the need (suffering) as much as possible.

Me: Do animals in the wild suffer?

@exis10s: they do. There's a study that shows some chimp communities are at risk of losing their culture because of human development.

Me: No, I mean wild animals suffer without human intervention, e.g. chimpanzee genocide

@looselyhuman: As a moral agent, I am only responsible for the suffering within my control - applies to humanity at large.

Me: It is within your control to try and reduce the suffering of wild animals. Or even farmed ones (e.g. burning farms).

@looselyhuman: Nature is to be revered, and not interfered with more than possible, where we come into contact, I have responsibility.

Me: Life consumes resources. The best way to reduce your carboon footprint is to kill yourself

@looselyhuman: It's in consideration, but my duty extends to myself.

Me: Just by being alive you are sinning. Environmental extremism is deeply misanthropic

@looselyhuman: Anthropocentrism is deeply misguided. We are part of a greater system.


Me: "Once we abandon human valuations as the sole reference system for human action, we have to ask whose valuations are to replace them: maybe the polar bear's (sic) for whom humans are food? Humans have no way of entering into communication with other species. All that happens is that some human agent argues on behalf of another species on the pretext that she or he knows what serves that species. When we abandon human valuations and logical discourse about them, the 'interests of Nature' therefore become an excuse for some self-appointed elite to overrule human valuations. The protagonists will claim superior knowledge about what is good for nature conservation and then enforce their decisions against the wishes of the majority of people."

@looselyhuman: If your goal is a planet-wide urbanscape then your philosophy is of no use to me.

Me: Those who revere planet-wide urbanscapes would say the same to you

On respecting nature:

Me: Why is using land a problem? Land is not alive

@looselyhuman: Land is the source of all life, and we diminish it.


Me: You have to provide a reason for reverence of nature.
Quasi-religiosity does not stands in non-religious discourse

@exis10s: because it sustains everything. It is the force that creates and destroys life in a real scientific sense.

@looselyhuman: My reverence is for that which gives me life, awareness, that which produced me. It is not religious, it is famlial love.

On what determines moral personhood and thus worthiness of respect:

Me: The chair I sit on is part of a greater system too

@looselyhuman: And you best respect it.
More so if it had any sentience, the same spark that makes humanism valid exists in many forms of life to varying degrees,

Me: So? Nature is impersonal.

@looselyhuman: Then so are we. We are nature and no more.


Me: The subway took me to work this morning. That does not mean I should respect me

@looselyhuman: I think I agree U should not respect U. ;) Try empathy. It extends beyond your species if you let it. Rocks are "immaterial"

Me: you revere non-sentient beings too.
We are sentient, thinking beings. That is a lot more than simply existing

@looselyhuman: Says you. Arrogance.

Me: I don't see what existence has to do with anything either. At least with sentience one could make a case


Would you respect a robot's programming ("drive")? What about a computer virus's?

@looselyhuman: Yes, actually, if capable of evolution/self-improvement and other advanced functions of life.

Me: Please let polymorphic viruses infect your computer, then.

@looselyhuman: I take action to defend myself, as is my duty, and sometimes I do harm, which I take responsibility for.

Me: Does your duty to defend yourself extend to quashing other life? Tapeworms don't kill us by living in us

@looselyhuman: Only when absolutely necessary will I do harm - based on my scale of duties that places me towards the top, but just.

On rationality:

@looselyhuman: No, I revere the system which is life, which is me.

Me: I don't even know what that means

@looselyhuman: I am sorry for that. You are missing that which is obvious but inaccessible to an overly-rational mind.

Me: Funny, that's what religious people say to me... and a variant of what they say to each other

@looselyhuman: Perhaps because you are disconnected from the part of your humanity that cannot be forced into rationalistic thinking.

Me: If we abandon rationality, there is no way to adjudicate competing truth claims

@looselyhuman: And perhaps there is not.

On Purpose and whether a chair is part of Nature:

Me: I feel sorry for the chair groaning under my weight now. I would kill myself, but that would dirty a knife

@looselyhuman: Never said feel for it. Respect it, it's providence, it's structure, it's limitations. There is more to existence than thot.

@exis10s: it's funny that you make jokes about the silly things you brought up. Straw man argument?

Me: If you think we have an obligation to Nature and to Land, why not to a chair?

@exis10s: land is a direct part of nature. A chair is not a direct part of nature. It is made with parts of nature by and for one species.

@looselyhuman: A chair is no longer alive (but was)... The driving force of life is what produced us, and is to be revered if we are.

Me: Perhaps this chair was not meant to bear my weight

@looselyhuman: The chair was only meant to do the purpose for which humans built it; the tree only meant to live, like us.

Me: Actually I'm sitting on a plastic chair now. There is no wood inside.

@looselyhuman: It is made of ancient life. Plastic = oil = organic. Thats really not the point; respecting your surroundings.

Me: You're committing a teleological fallacy: who's to say what the 'purpose' of humans or trees is

@looselyhuman: Purpose is the drive of life, of genes, to live. Other meanings are constructs - but some good ones like my responsibility.

Me: That's analogous to naturalistic fallacy. Humans are driven to have sex. Doesnt mean sex is the purpose of human life

@looselyhuman: There is no purpose otherwise. In fact, there is no purpose but what we determine; beneath that only the drive to live.
And if I am to respect your drive to live, I will also respect other life. Differences are quantitative not qualitative.

Me: But you revere Nature. Which has no drive to live, even.

@looselyhuman: Nature is the sum of the parts. We beings are the sum of our genes, nature is the sum of us beings. Same concept/purpose.

(I was tempted to add that this was the fallacy of aggregation, but I'd moved on to do other things by this time)

On Free Will:

Me: So can non-thinking entities have purpose? You're also mixing what we determine and our instincts (drive of life)

@looselyhuman: You think free will is limited to humanity? It's an extension of survival instinct. If it has genes, it has the same core purpose as I

Me: Free will requires the ability to reflect. So plants and animals that fail the mirror test most probably have none

@looselyhuman: I disagree. Free will is neurological static that causes decisions to be probabilistic.

Me: Then free will has dissolved into chance

@looselyhuman: Wrong, it allows some new options for consideration to be introduced, and provides for some variance in choosing.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Social Psychologists Detect Liberal Bias Within

"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them." - George Bernard Shaw


Social Psychologists Detect Liberal Bias Within

"40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal... Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.

“Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations”...

He had been corresponding with a couple of non-liberal graduate students in social psychology whose experiences reminded him of closeted gay students in the 1980s...

“If a group circles around sacred values, they will evolve into a tribal-moral community,” he said. “They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.” It’s easy for social scientists to observe this process in other communities, like the fundamentalist Christians who embrace “intelligent design” while rejecting Darwinism. But academics can be selective, too, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan found in 1965 when he warned about the rise of unmarried parenthood and welfare dependency among blacks — violating the taboo against criticizing victims of racism.

“Moynihan was shunned by many of his colleagues at Harvard as racist,” Dr. Haidt said. “Open-minded inquiry into the problems of the black family was shut down for decades, precisely the decades in which it was most urgently needed. Only in the last few years have liberal sociologists begun to acknowledge that Moynihan was right all along”...

[After Larry Summers,] the taboo against discussing sex differences was reinforced, so universities and the National Science Foundation went on spending tens of millions of dollars on research and programs based on the assumption that female scientists faced discrimination and various forms of unconscious bias. But that assumption has been repeatedly contradicted, most recently in a study published Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by two Cornell psychologists, Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams. After reviewing two decades of research, they report that a woman in academic science typically fares as well as, if not better than, a comparable man when it comes to being interviewed, hired, promoted, financed and published.

“Thus,” they conclude, “the ongoing focus on sex discrimination in reviewing, interviewing and hiring represents costly, misplaced effort. Society is engaged in the present in solving problems of the past”...

[The Society for Personality and Social Psychology] made a change on the “Diversity Initiatives” page — a two-letter correction of what it called a grammatical glitch, although others might see it as more of a Freudian slip.

In the old version, the society announced that special funds to pay for travel to the annual meeting were available to students belonging to “underrepresented groups (i.e., ethnic or racial minorities, first-generation college students, individuals with a physical disability, and/or lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered students).”

As Dr. Haidt noted in his speech, the “i.e.” implied that this was the exclusive, sacred list of “underrepresented groups.” The society took his suggestion to substitute “e.g.” — a change that leaves it open to other groups, too. Maybe, someday, even to conservatives"

Addendum: Some of the comments:

"Those conservatives that thought deeply on the subject of political diversity in academics realized, in the 50s and 60s, that one result of the cold war would be to move colleges to the left - the reasons are complex, but not terribly so. They chose to leave and set up a parallel system of "think tanks" to house intellectual conservatism rather than advance it through the academy. It seemed like a losing battle, and perhaps it would have been. Those thinkers built the significant elements of Reagan's arguments. Given the success attributed to Reagan, it would have changed academia significantly if those ideas had come from within the ivory tower. I think it would have been much healthier all around, with more diverse thought today in many fields."

"Speaking as one on the inside of the social sciences I know that this does not happen when it comes to hot-button issues and that more than a few of my colleagues zip their lips when another makes unsubstantiated claims that are nonetheless embraced by the social norms of the discipline. There is even an open disdain for those of us who actually try to teach and employ statistics by saying things like, “Well, this is an issue that lends itself best to descriptive analysis” and "there is more than one way (i.e. other than empirical analysis) to get knowledge." We need to combat “truthiness” on both sides of the political spectrum."

"I am a liberal and a gay man, and I have seen the bias against conservatives play out among my colleagues in the same way that bias against other groups, including women, African Americans and gay men play out. People make offensive jokes when they think no one from the outgroup is there. The assumption is always that we are all liberal. I have heard things said about conservatives that would not be tolerable about any other group. What's more, I have done experiments and research that shows interesting links between being conservative or religious and wellbeing and with being conservative as a risk factor for depression among college students. Yet, I have been actively discouraged from publishing that work by colleagues. When I have presented it, I have been attacked for doing that research. Oddly, the findings emerged in a study of how African Americans are made to feel alienated in a college campus where they are a small minority. Yet, the exact same patterns that can be described about African Americans are there for conservatives. I can present the data about African Americans and be praised, but I can't present the data about conservatives without being jeered or treated as a second rate scientist. This bias is quite disturbing. It has nothing to do with conservatives, but with the refusal to consider and publish empirical, scientific work without bias. Part of this bias may be explained by the fact that many social and personality psychologists, particularly those with more at stake when it comes to publishing, often reinterpret data and tweak statistic analysis to fit their theories and agenda. Perhaps the assumption that the work of every colleague is biased to reflect their point of view and that the data are never exactly what they seem."

The PNAS paper by Ceci and Williams referenced which shows that bias against women isn't a problem in STEM is:

Understanding current causes of women's underrepresentation in science

"Explanations for women's underrepresentation in math-intensive fields of science often focus on sex discrimination in grant and manuscript reviewing, interviewing, and hiring. Claims that women scientists suffer discrimination in these arenas rest on a set of studies undergirding policies and programs aimed at remediation. More recent and robust empiricism, however, fails to support assertions of discrimination in these domains. To better understand women's underrepresentation in math-intensive fields and its causes, we reprise claims of discrimination and their evidentiary bases. Based on a review of the past 20 y of data, we suggest that some of these claims are no longer valid and, if uncritically accepted as current causes of women's lack of progress, can delay or prevent understanding of contemporary determinants of women's underrepresentation. We conclude that differential gendered outcomes in the real world result from differences in resources attributable to choices, whether free or constrained, and that such choices could be influenced and better informed through education if resources were so directed. Thus, the ongoing focus on sex discrimination in reviewing, interviewing, and hiring represents costly, misplaced effort: Society is engaged in the present in solving problems of the past, rather than in addressing meaningful limitations deterring women's participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers today. Addressing today's causes of underrepresentation requires focusing on education and policy changes that will make institutions responsive to differing biological realities of the sexes. Finally, we suggest potential avenues of intervention to increase gender fairness that accord with current, as opposed to historical, findings."

Addendum 2: Apparently the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences didn't get the memo that it's misogyny to suggest that men and women are different

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Thurber on Human Dignity

"Human Dignity has gleamed only now and then and here and there, in lonely splendor, throughout the ages, a hope of the better men, never an achievement of the majority. That which is only sporadically realized can scarcely be called characteristic. It is impossible to think of it as innate; it could never be defined as normal. Nothing is more depressing than the realization that nobility, courage, mercy, and almost all the other virtues which go to make up the ideal of Human Dignity are, at their clearest and realest, the outgrowth of Man's inhumanity to Man, the fruit of his unending interspecific struggle. The pattern is easily traceable, from Christ to Cavell."

--- James Thurber

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sex Ratios and Sexual Economics / Why Women Hate Sluts, Prostitutes and Porn

(this post has been post-dated 12 hours so it will not be hidden beneath my travelogue)

"I'm just trying to make a smudge on the collective unconscious." - David Letterman


Where follows quotes from an article, short commentary and a theory -

Sex is cheap: Why young men have the upper hand in bed, even when they're failing in life.

"We keep hearing that young men are failing to adapt to contemporary life... yet there is one area in which men are very much in charge: premarital heterosexual relationships...

To better understand what's going on, it's worth a crash course in "sexual economics," an approach best articulated by social psychologists Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs... On average, men want sex more than women do. Call it sexist, call it whatever you want—the evidence shows it's true... sex in consensual relationships therefore commences only when women decide it does...

The market "price" of sex is currently very low. There are several likely reasons for this. One is the spread of pornography... The Pill lowered the cost as well...

A significant number of young men are faring rather badly in life, and are thus skewing the dating pool... there's a growing imbalance between the number of successful young women and successful young men...

Analysis of demographic data from 117 countries has shown that when men outnumber women, women have the upper hand: Marriage rates rise and fewer children are born outside marriage... virginity is more common on those campuses where women comprise a smaller share of the student body, suggesting that they have the upper hand. By contrast, on campuses where women outnumber men, they are more negative about campus men, hold more negative views of their relationships, go on fewer dates, are less likely to have a boyfriend, and receive less commitment in exchange for sex.

The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health data [shows that a large] share of young men's sexual relationships—30 percent—that don't involve romance at all: no wooing, no dates, no nothing... (being in a dating relationship is correlated to greater acceptance of and use of porn among women)...

It's no surprise that the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who are married has shrunk by an average of 1 percent each year this past decade...

While young men's failures in life are not penalizing them in the bedroom, their sexual success may, ironically, be hindering their drive to achieve in life. Don't forget your Freud: Civilization is built on blocked, redirected, and channeled sexual impulse, because men will work for sex... "Societies in which women have lots of autonomy and authority tend to be decidedly male-friendly, relaxed, tolerant, and plenty sexy""

As someone once told me about his American college, "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" just meant "who I'm fucking right now".

However, one complication with the thesis is that it is not young men who are succeeding sexually, but successful young men. While the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health shows that the breakdown of sexual relationships favours male preferences, for a more complete picture you need to look at how many do not get any in the first place. I suspect that the data will show that successful young men are succeeding sexually at the cost of unsuccessful young men (this is linked to why banning polygamy [or rather, polygyny] benefits men and not women)

This article has also incited me to post my theory on why people hate sluts. Or women, at any rate:

One notices that people have a very paradoxical relationship with sluts.

Men should like sluts because they can get some easily.

Meanwhile, since women always complain about unwanted sexual attention from men, they should also like sluts because the sluts will draw away this allegedly unwanted sexual attention from them.

There should thus be a win-win-win scenario: men get some, women who are not interested are left alone, and sluts get satisfied.

Yet, that is not what we see.

My proposal is that the reason why women hate sluts is that women gain power by rationing sex. So a freer supply of sex threatens the other suppliers, who get upset and take action (this is also one of the reasons women are opposed to prostitution and pornography). You can see similar reactions when industries and companies lobby against trade liberalization or industry deregulation.

(This might be one of the reasons explaining the ambivalence or bitterness towards feminism that many women have)

The traditional reason for why women hate sluts is that sluts, pornography and prostitution "commercialise/devalue an highly emotional and valuable act", but this is not a mutually exclusive explanation [Addendum: One could be a proximate explanation and another an ultimate one]. Besides which, non-sluts also engage in casual sex - it's just that there's plausible deniability. It might also confuse different levels of explanation - women fearing the loss of power could be an ultimate cause, with emotional cheapening as a proximate one.

Why guys hate sluts is a more complex topic which I am still pondering (this is ironic since women are more complicated than men).

[Addendum: This might be due to paternity uncertainty]

N. China - Day 8, Part 2 - Beijing: Temple of Heaven

"Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." - Jef Raskin


N. China
Day 8 - 6th November - Beijing: Temple of Heaven
(Part 2)

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Under the eaves

There was an exhibition in one of the buildings: "Exhibition of the rite of worshipping Heaven", so I went to take a look.

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"Five Emperor Dynasties"
If I understand the caption correctly this talks about historical records of the Five Emperors. I think no one outside of China and the Chinese diaspora seriously believes in the Five Emperors.

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The exhibition claimed that the Temple of Heaven was the International symbol of China, the key symbol of Beijing. I'm sure the people behind the Forbidden City and Great Wall would have lots to say about that.

The audioguide said either the gate or the hall (probably the latter) was built only from wood. I wasn't paying attention as I was helping 2 people to take photographs (one after the other).

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"Plague of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests"

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Designs for Ancient Chinese altars

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If I hadn't known better, I'd have thought this was a depiction of African or Aboriginal Australian rites to worship the sun, and the exhibition was drawing a comparison between aboriginal Chinese rituals and those of other primitive cultures, but knowing the parochialism of China, I was quite sure that these were supposed to be Chinese.

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Famous visitors. Listing Vanuatu here is quite desperate. I had no idea which country "Zelanian Viceroy Boys" represented (now looking at the Mandarin it says New Zealand).

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World Heritage photos

Just as I exited the ticketed area for the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, I saw a French-speaking family with 6 kids (2 in strollers). I was very surprised. They ran in to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests before I could ask anything. I suppose this shows just how high the fertility rate there is (even excluding immigration).

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Gate of Prayer for Good Harvests

There was a dressing terrace where the Emperor changed his clothes before prayers. Now you can play dress up yourself.

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Danbi Bridge

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Danbi Bridge
The middle path is for God - even the Emperor cannot walk there. There was no walkway for ordinary people, because the bridge was out of bounds to them.

Animals needed to be moved for sacrifices, but they were not allowed to walk on the bridge. So there was a walkway underneath for them.

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"The Ancient Cypress Woods"
They are more than 800 years old

Next I entered another ticketed area: the Imperial Vault of Heaven.

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Imperial Vault of Heaven

Notice the people clapping - the wall is supposed to echo the claps back

The echo wall is supposed to be so well-designed, if you whisper on the wall, someone more than 60 metres away will hear you. However it was so noisy I couldn't test this.

When you stand on the stone in the centre and clap, you're supposed to hear 3 claps coming back at you: one from the Echo Wall, one from the Main Temple and one from the Annex Hall. My theory is that you will indeed hear 3 claps - from all the other visitors clapping.

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Imperial Vault of Heaven

As at the Forbidden City, the automatic audioguide talked so fast I couldn't walk fast enough to keep up.

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The poetically named "Circular Mound"
This was the "'real' Temple of Heaven"

The number 9 is very important in the mound. It is the biggest Yang number. For example each level is a different height, but each consists of 9 steps.

There is a round stone in the centre with stories about it. Supposedly it's the Heaven Heart Stone, but going back 2-3 decades, the audioguide labelled this Feudalistic Era Gossip: 'Even if God exists, they are nobody but the ancient architects and craftsmen who built the miracle'. Tsk, Atheistic Communist Preaching!

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Plaque on the Lingxing Gates which you see in front of the circular mound

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Circular Mound

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"Heavenly Centre Stone"

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Looking back at the Vault of Heaven

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Looking back at the Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

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Glazed Bricks

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A pole that had been erected to mount a CCTV camera on

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"There were three poles for watching lanterns during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Two of them were cut down by Yuan Shikai when he came here to worship the Heaven in 1914"

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Circular Mound exit gates
The middle door is the largest, for God. The one on the left is for the Emperor. The one on the right is the smallest, for the officials.

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They have not one but two Complaints Hotlines - a "Complaints Hotline" and a "Price Complaints Hotline". Très bien !

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UNESCO stone

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Nine-Dragon Juniper
This tree was planted in the reign of Jiaqing. It is the most famous cypress here. Kissinger came here 12 times as he liked it.

My guide from the Summer Palace had advised me to just walk down the central path and avoid the attractions at the side as there was nothing to see. However I spurned her advice as I had nothing else to do with my time (and thought that PRCs had different standards from foreigners - as evinced by the Marble Boat).

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Fasting Palace
Unfortunately it was closed. And the audioguide didn't work either. So my erstwhile guide was right after all!

On the way out, I spotted a gelato place so I decided to try it. The price was supposed to be 15¥ but I wheedled a 10¥ portion out of them (I said it was winter and it was cold).

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Watermelon gelato
It was alright even if not smooth enough - they didn't ruin it, even if it wasn't up to Venezia standards, though it had... chocolate inside (before I ate it I thought it was watermelon seeds). I asked the woman why and she said they felt it was too 淡 (bland). She said business was still okay in November, but not in colder months. I said she could close shop then, and she scolded me.

I was tempted to write in to what was the Italian franchise owner and complain about the chocolate, but maybe they only supplied the cups (the website says "Artisan gelato PreGel: prepared and ingredients for gelato, semi-finished products for gelato, products for gelato and pastry")

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Evil cat. I saw a lot of evil cats in Beijing. They need a new exotic meat on their menus.

At the entrance, there was a sign in cyrillic!

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Beijing was one of the last places I expected to see a tin foil hat

One should adopt the heuristic that a local in China who approahces you unsolicited is probably trying to swindle you. This could be labelled xenophobia (or racist, if you are white), but the cost of not being "xenophobic" is very high. Ironically, it is precisely if you are white that you will need to be careful, as they will be more likely to swindle you.

The women in Northern China don't look particularly good. Probably because the good-looking ones are all in Hong Kong, Zhuhai, Macau, Shanghai and Singapore... working.

Visiting China, I have a rough idea of what visiting Russia is like, being in a country with a language which many people in the world speak (thus hitting a critical mass which means people do not feel the need to learn foreign languages), with a script which is not the Latin alphabet (so you cannot randomly guess words or even hazard pronouncing some words, and writing things down for people won't help).
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