Friday, September 13, 2002

Last call for breasts

Ah yes, one of my favorite topics. I've written of them at least twice before, so it's not as if I lacked inspiration. But now it's timely, because Susanna Cornett only has a couple more days before her Race for the Cure, and she asked for contributions. So I'm contributing this, in case any of you forgot about breasts.

I probably won't anytime soon. After all, if I don't watch my weight I'll have them myself. But even though men, especially pot smokers, can have them (a condition called gynecomastia), and can even get breast cancer, for some reason women's breasts get most of the attention.

Well, I know the reason, just don't ask me to articulate it. But I've known it for a long time - at least since I was about 5 or so. At the time a relative who drove a truck had parked it nearby, and he had a big Playboy gatefold posted on the back of his sleeper. My parents were looking for me all over (imagine that) and finally found me lying there staring transfixed at the recumbent beauty and the little white dog she was holding up in the air. And you know what - I keep getting Google hits for mentioning DeDe Lind and Sherry Jackson from a 1967 issue - I'll bet somebody out there can tell me who that centerfold was just from my description. Anyway, I can't tell you why I was looking so intently or so long, and I swear that was all I was doing.

Back in those days in Playboy breasts were pretty much the whole show, and what a show it was. This of course led to some really unnatural expectations, tempered somewhat by an occasional glimpse at a National Geographic. These breasts had no veins, stretch marks, scars, sags, pores, dark hairs, blemishes or other things that happen to real women. That was true of other parts of women too, but I had daily experience seeing that to temper expectations.

(Well, I never really got a good candid look at live plumbing until my early teens, thanks to some short shorts and a lack of chairs. Somehow it didn't seem as interesting - but for a coif and some stuff that sounded gross it wasn't that much different from a little girl's, and I had seen those) (and fashion seems to be to lose the coif) (and yes, there has to be a better word than "plumbing" - suggestions?) (Phyllis Levy would have some. If you listened to talk radio in Chicago on Sunday nights in the 1980's, you probably remember Phyllis Levy) (an entire paragraph of parenthetical remarks! Take that, English teachers - you and your breasts too).

So I've looked at breasts from both sides now, from flat to sag and still somehow it's breasts' illusions I recall. I really don't know breasts at all.

Well, I've learned a little. I've learned that there are some things you really can't improve upon (although I like Al Bundy's suggestion for a third breast in the back "for dancing"). Not that people don't try - there are some real butchers out there in the business of breast modifications. And even if they get the esthetics right, other things can happen. If the size of your breasts is a real problem, maybe there's something else you ought to replace instead.

Breast reduction OTOH can be a boon. I know one woman who was carrying a positively bovine rack, but now has had some relief (about 7 lbs worth). The results don't have to leave lots of scars either, unlike the case of the one woman on the documentary Susanna mentioned - the woman mentioned above had to point hers out. Don't take it for granted that insurance will pay though.

I hear that the next best thing to breast reduction is getting a mammogram - they have to mash down pretty hard to get a good shot. But if you do it early and often enough, maybe you can avoid the kind of breast reduction at least three relatives of mine had. A little here, a whole breast there, over years, until they finally died of cancer. And two of their daughters look like their clones...

So in addition to this literary (!?) contribution, I've chipped in toward Susanna's pledges. She has surpassed her original goal and revised it up to $1000 - let's put her over the top!

UPDATE: Last Page has a few words.

Phony issue

I don't expect people at the American Prospect to draw sound conclusions, but I didn't expect them to be this far off base. Of long-distance telephone service, Robert Kuttner writes:
The old regulated system had its problems, but it was reliable, simple, and you didn't have to resort to bargaining every time you tried to fathom your phone bill. Long-distance prices dropped at a rapid rate without competition thanks to technology and regulation.

At times we railed at Ma Bell, but she looks pretty good compared with some of her children.
Has this guy ever paid a phone bill himself? I remember all too well how high long distance rates used to be, and how high my phone bills ran because I've rarely managed to live close to family and friends. Nowadays I spend about a third as much for my wireless phone with free long distance and many other services than I used to pay for long distance alone. Part of that is due to technological advance, but LD rates didn't start falling until companies started bidding aggressively against one another, hoping they could slip it to you on another part of the bill. As it is, for bills of less than about $20 per month, it's hard for an LD telco to make any money.

Would regulation help? Sure - it would help bureaucrats and the phone companies. That's because of a well-known phenomenon known as regulatory capture. We'd still have to deal with huge companies, but the govt would be working on their interests.

"Where's Osama" indeed

If you hang around biology labs long enough, all that formaldehyde might start getting to you. You might even be tempted to post something like this:
Here is my proposal, and I hope some people will take me up on it. Everytime a member of Dubya's administration gets on TV, radio, or gives a speech about going to war in Iraq, someone should start chanting "Where's Osama", and keep it up until they get thrown out of the building. Every columnist in the country should write an op-ed every week, entitled "How close are we to capturing Osama?". NOTHING, with the exception of the very preservation of our country, should be more important than finding that bastard. To do any less is to insult the memory of everyone who died nearly a year ago.
Or agree with it.

For all I know OBL has bathed and shaved and is in a bar in Connecticut hitting on Ann Coulter (wasn't she dating a Middle Eastern guy for awhile?). I don't care. The idea was to make the terrorism stop, not to put someone's head on a pike. Gosh, I guess that means that World War II was a failure because we don't have Hitler stuffed and mounted at the Smithsonian.

Or does a lefty like Paul Orwin suddenly think that a "death penalty" can actually provide a deterrent?

If the Bush administration's conduct of the war is such that his detractors can come up with no worse than this, that's about as good a compliment as he can receive.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

I tip my hat Greg Hlatky for this rant on the individual who did as much as anyone non-Muslim to make us remember this day.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Not that Clinton

Clinton Power Station, near Clinton, IL, is the first in the state to hand out potassium iodide (KI) pills. These pills are designed to saturate the body with iodine, to prevent uptake of radioactive iodine that could be present in case of a very severe nuclear accident.

This initiative was taken by the state of Illinois. It might just be a coincidence that the Clinton plant is the one that is closest to Springfield, the capital. In fairness that certainly simplifies the logistics - the next closest plant, LaSalle County Station, is about twice as far from Springfield.

But I'm not interested in being fair. It's more fun to suggest that it's to protect their bureaucratic hides, and that they know which site in the state has had the most regulatory trouble.

The problems came about mostly because it was a very big project taken on by a very small utility, and neither the utility (then Illinois Power) nor the constructor (an ad-hoc assemblage called Baldwin Associates) had built a nuclear power plant before. Extreme financial and time pressure, inexperience, high interest rates, regulatory instability, quality assurance program problems, regulatory intervention, asinine court decisions and management that I'll call "dippy hell" have led to a wild ride, which led what was to be a 2 unit plant costing around $400M to become a one unit plant costing over 10 times as much.

But now the plant is in the very capable hands of Exelon Corporation, which runs several sites well and has very experienced management. And they might even build that second unit.

So I'll start sucking up now - some day I might be working for these guys.

Some telemarketers to observe 9/11

Believe it or not.

"You First - No More Pearl Harbors"

Maybe you've seen this Larry Miller piece before, but I don't care - read it anyway.

Indifference in sexism in blogging.

Last Page doesn't care about this sexism in blogging issue - don't let those 9 links fool you.

And Media Minded butts in with this. Your move, Dawn.

UPDATE: Dawn made her move, with a picture more consistent with the name of her site. I like the old ones better.

Sexism in blogging II

Just for the record I'll address some things posted on Meryl Yourish's blog about my post immediately below.

You'll notice 4 things I asked if she could agree with. I didn't offer any evidence - I figured that they weren't particularly controversial, so I didn't lay everything out as if I were deriving a mathematical proof. But Ms. Yourish took issue with all 4.

I'll plead guilty to sloppiness on 1 and 2, where I should have said political blogs instead of blogs in general. With that qualification I'll stand behind 1 and 2.

An act of faith? Not really. References like this one show the results of investigations showing that men simply show more knowledge of politics than women. This I attribute to interests rather than innate abilities, and it fits most of the women I know.

As originally written 1) is questionable, but based on the reference above I'll stand by it as amended to refer to "political" blogs.

Ms. Yourish says that more women than men are online now as if this addresses 1). But that does not mean that women are reading more blogs than men are. My "sexist" guess is that if her assertion is true, those women are spending most of their time shopping, chatting or swapping email rather than reading or writing blogs. That too is consistent with the behavior of most of the women I know, who don't even suspect the existence of weblogs.

2) also needs the amendment limiting it to political blogs. Check the blogroll to the left - if Ms. Yourish will point out neglected predominantly political female bloggers to whom I'm not already linked and who are politically similar to the ones there now, I'll be happy to check them out. I'm already linked to most of the blogs she has mentioned, and in most cases I have been for months (including, more recently, Ms.Yourish herself). If I'm neglecting any group, it's men - there's just so many good ones I won't even claim to have heard of them all.

3) and 4)? Gimme a break. If statements as mild as "Each sex tends to write about things of interest to their own sex." and "Each sex tends to read about things of interest to their own sex." are found controversial, we have little if any common ground.

What was Ann Coulter doing in there? Ms. Yourish was going off on her a while back, so the devil in me couldn't be denied. I thought Ms. Yourish might admire Ms. Coulter's success in a field dominated by men.

How many of various bloggers' audiences are female? Beats me. If Ms. Yourish know of a way to sex readers via their IP addresses I know some marketers she can sell it to. My best tool for evaluating this distribution is my commenting facility, where I'd say it's at least 3 to 1 in favor of women by distinct names (assuming I know which are which). In total post count it's far more lopsidedly male. That's grossly inadequate as a measure of the sex distribution of traffic, but Ms. Yourish doesn't support even that, so I'd be interested in knowing how she knows the true composition of her audience if in fact she does.

Now, the Diane E. example, comparing her knowledge to that of Steven Den Beste on Middle Eastern issues. OK, suppose Ms. Yourish is right. Diane E. isn't as prolific as SDB. She doesn't cover as many topics. The non-Middle East topics she covers are less interesting to men than are those that SDB covers. And she hasn't been around as long to get the exposure he's had. So why would a reasonable person declare them as somehow equivalent with respect to worthiness for traffic in general?

Then there's this: "Are you trying to say that women don't care about politics? Technology? Sports? That only men are interested in reading warblogs?" No, of course not, and spare me the straw men. I wonder if Ms. Yourish really believes that all of those topics are of equal interest to both men and women - if so, the reference above might help. Again, my experience is consistent with its findings.

Lest my shortcomings as a writer should obscure it, the only emotion that ought to be showing in any of the above is disappointment.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Sexism in blogging?

Meryl Yourish seems to think that there is sexism in blogging. Well, let's quote her:
Take a look at the blogrolls on Scripting News or Doc's place, or even Diane E. and Megan McArdle, and you'll find few women-written weblogs. Again, I'm not saying this is deliberate. But it is a striking fact. It's not just the men. Even women have a low female-to-male blogroll ratio.

So what's to be done about it? That, too, is a tough one. I believe that bloggers would be better off checking a few of the female pundits on a more regular basis
Why should anything be done about it at all? Why is this a problem?

Before I start, let's see if we can agree on a few fundamental things. 1) More males than females read blogs 2) More males than females write blogs 3) Each sex tends to write about things of interest to their own sex. 4) Each sex tends to read about things of interest to their own sex. Anything controversial so far?

From the above it's easy to conclude that it's 100% natural that men would have most of the traffic, and might possibly be tempted to link to men more often because of their *content*. There's nothing sinister about that.

Women as a group, in my experience, tend to write more "diary-style" blogs. You need continuity to appreciate them. That makes them comparatively high-maintenance, like a soap opera - you either tune in everyday or have to be brought up-to-date each time.

Certainly all women aren't like that - among many others, Susanna Cornett and Jane Galt are two major exceptions. Not coincidentally, they are two of my most regular stops.

Meryl's isn't like that either. But I'm there less often because her politics are to the left of mine, and I usually don't go looking for trouble. Meryl has been permalinked here for a while, as has Dawn Olsen who has also written on the topic, and many others.

I could be wrong here, but Dawn seems irritated because she's not linked by Glenn Reynolds or some others. About that, well, Glenn really can't win on this one. I don't remember the particulars, but I know he's been criticized for linking to some women for reasons which supposedly were other than merit. He's interested in certain things, and he reads and links to those, that's all, and doesn't owe anybody any apologies for that.

And Dawn surely wouldn't have forgotten a bunch of crap Steven Den Beste caught for the unspeakable crime of noting a few good looking young women and posting pictures on his blog. Her hubby Eric pounced all over SDB, as did others. There's a huge double standard here, and God help us if he posted a picture of his ass on his blog, jean-clad or otherwise. There are some blogs which I assume are by men that might get by with something like that (maybe wKenshow), but they're exceptional.

With Dawn's blog being like it is with graphics and content, men who read it regularly are put in the position of men who say they read Playboy for the articles - it may be true, but it's a tough sell. Especially at work where Glenn Reynolds believes most of his hits come from.

Traffic is cool to the extent that there is a certain amount of validation, but really - having any traffic at all on something as vast as the web is exceptional. For a site that is sociable like Dawn's, more traffic would be likely to be what I have heard called "pissing in the soup" - you're more likely to pick up creeps like the one she writes of here. (Incidentally, is anyone making any assumptions about the sex of the creep?).

Meryl doesn't have any commenting facility that I can tell, so I'll ask her a few questions here: why is the sex of a blogger important? Are you saying a man can't write like a woman, or vice versa? You don't seem to like Ann Coulter - don't you like the idea that a woman can be as obnoxious as any man? Are you contending that there are no meaningful differences in the sexes that might be relevant to the choice of topics, the tone, the volume, and the overall success (whatever that is) of a blog?

UPDATE: Godless Capitalist of Gene Expression weighs in.

UPDATE 2: Meryl has responded to a number of posters. Somehow I'm portrayed as "really mad". I'll admit to asking fairly pointed questions and to having a certain lack of patience with -ism claims nowadays, but "really mad?"