Friday, 30 May 2008

Alcohol - a perfect substitute for achievement

Meet Anna Coddington.

Anna, at age 26, is releasing her debut album, 'The Lake'.

Anna also has a black belt in karate and a Masters degree in socio-linguistics. I feel so inadequate.

However, I have my wash-hose, and I could do Elephunk before the Black Eyed Peas ever heard of it.

The problem with trial by public opinion

These are the facts of a recent case as given by police to the media, prior to the trial:

i, The victim, a 10 year old girl, died from suffocation, She had been found in her bed with trouble breathing.
ii, There were injuries to her genitals, including a rectal tear consistent with penetration.
iii, DNA from the semen of the uncle had been found on her underwear.
iv, The family, maintaining the uncle's innocence, washed her bedding and clothing after she was found.
v, The family was from a part of Africa in which the myth that sex with a virgin can cure AIDS is common.

The uncle was arrested and charged with murder. He was, of course, vilified in the newspapers.

These are the facts that showed up in the trial:

i, The victim was indeed found in bed with problems breathing. She was also unconscious and having severe, chalky diarrhoa, which had drenched the bedding. By the time she got to emergency, she had a severe fever, a racing heart beat, and no measurable blood pressure. She had lost so much fluid from diarrhoa that she had gone into hypovolemic shock, depriving the brain of oxygen.
ii, The victim had contracted HIV at birth, from her mother.
iii, The anal injuries consisted of small lateral tears, otherwise reported in HIV/Aids patients. The rectal tear (about 7 cm) was actually a swollen and distended anal canal, probably due to the combination of Aids, diarrhoa, and the fluids desperately pumped into her by the medical team. There was pinprick haemorrhage to her genitals and hymen, but no sign of penetration.
iv, There was no sign of the uncle's semen anywhere else on the girl or bedding. The amount of DNA was about one 100,000th the size of a sugar grain. The girls' clothing had been in the wash after she was taken, the family had a habit of handwashing underwear, and DNA manages to survive through washing quite often.
v, The medical team and police appear to have fixated on sexual abuse, and interpreted all the evidence in that light.

The uncle was acquitted.

Moral: Be damned careful of what you read in the papers, do not assume the worst until proven ESPECIALLY for the most horrific of charges, and don't allow your prejudices and prejudgements to blind you to alternatives.

Source here.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

More demands on me from uppity females

I have just been handed a To Do list from an eleven year old, who will be known as K.M. - it reads:

- Grow some hair on the top of your head
- Comb your hair
- Give K.M. (the innocent child) lots of chocolate
- Buy K.M. expensive presents on her birthday and Christmas
- Give K.M. chocolate eggs on Easter
- Consider a job with more pay and no annoying children
- Realise how much children love you
- Learn to smile nicely

Wonderful - now eleven year olds are telling me what to do. Clearly, this child's parents have failed to beat her enough. I will be forced to do so on their behalf.

Addenda: And now the extremely annoying P.A. is requiring me to hang around with her shopping until her boyfriend can pick her up. To quote:

Annoying PA: You sucks
Harassed PiaToR: Shuddup
Annoying PA: I love harrassing you

That's it - I'm joining a Trappist brotherhood. Do they accept agnostics?

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

And it's not even in the Wikipedia yet...

This, or something like it, is going to be huge. The ramifications for the way people (and people and businesses) interact on a day to day basis will be staggering as it becomes more sophisticated.

Remember "aka-aki" and "mobile social networking" - you're going to hear a lot more about them in the next couple of years.

Monday, 19 May 2008

If this is Thursday, I must be psychotic

This looks like fun - Joss Whedon's new series, Dollhouse:

Dollhouse follows Dushku's Echo, a mysterious agent with no identity except for the personalities imprinted on her and then deleted by her employer depending on the wishes and needs of wealthy clients. Between assignments, Echo lives inside a cushy secret HQ with other blank-slate dolls in a state of oblivious, hyper-healthy bliss...though as the series unfolds, she's starting to remember stuff she shouldn't.

Yeah, I've had days like that. They usually involved alcohol.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

But... Canterbury is full of zombies already...

I have a really bad feeling about this movie. I haven't been impressed by NZ movies, although "Bad Sheep" did try hard. This, however, looks like the sort of cretins I spent my teenage years escaping let loose.

Perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised. And perhaps Scarlett Johansson will declare her true love for me tomorrow. Seems about as likely.

On the advantages of totalitarian communism

I heard on the radio today an account from a Kiwi stuck in the middle of the Chinese earthquake zone. He was impressed by the massive response of the Chinese government to the crisis. I note reports such as this:

More than 50,000 troops joined disaster relief efforts or were advancing to the area. The Chinese air force said 6,500 troops were parachuted into hard-hit areas where rain and clouds had prevented military helicopters from landing.

Premier Wen ordered troops to clear roads to Wenchuan. "Please speed up the shipping of food. The kids have nothing to eat now," he said amid crying children.

and this:

Premier Wen Jiabao was quick to reach the scene and urged rescuers to clear roads into the worst-hit areas as fast as possible.

"As long as there is even a little hope, we will redouble our efforts 100 times and will never relax our efforts," he told crying locals through a loudhailer in the badly hit Dujiangyan city, south-east of the epicentre.

The health ministry has made an urgent appeal for people to give blood to help the injured.
China said it would accept international help to cope with the quake - the worst since 1976 when 242,000 people were killed in Tangshan - and offered its thanks.

The government response was praised as "swift and very efficient" by Francis Marcus of the International Federation of the Red Cross in Beijing.

But he added the scale of the disaster was such that "we can't expect that the government can do everything and handle every aspect of the needs".

Make no mistake about it - the Chinese government is an oppressive totalitarian State whose only justification is the Chinese fear of anarchy.

But compare and contrast.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Further research on prostitution from Chicago

One of the things that irritated me on the discussions in Pandagon on prostitution was the glib insistence by some (female) commentators on why men used hookers. I've never done so, nor wanted to do so, but I know several guys who have, and the comments just didn't ring true.

I've come across a reference to some research from an anti-prostitution group, interviewing regular clients in Chicago. Two cavaets here - the group is noted as being biased in their research, and the circumstances in Chicago may not apply elsewhere where prostitution is more licit. None the less, there's some interesting comment on the attitudes of males who buy sex:

SEX ACTS: 46-48% of interviewees purchased sex in order to obtain sex acts they either felt uncomfortable asking of their partner or which their partner refused to perform.

NO COMMITMENT: 36% of interviewees said that they purchased sex to avoid emotional involvement or commitment.

ADDICTION: 83% considered purchasing sex an addiction for the man buying.

PORNOGRAPHY: 39% of interviewees were regular pornography consumers. Interviewees frequently mentioned reenacting pornography with women in prostitution.

EMOTIONAL STATE: 27% preferred women who looked “lonely” in order to imagine the existence of an emotional bond.

RACE/ETHNICITY: 43% of interviewees selected a woman in prostitution based on her race and/or ethnicity.

MEN’S DOMINATION OVER WOMEN IN PROSTITUTION: 43% of interviewees stated that if the man pays the woman for sex, she should do anything he asks.

INTOXICATION: 42% of interviewees were regularly intoxicated during their encounters with women in prostitution. 19% said they were drunk or high during every encounter.

CONFLICTING FEELINGS: 22% of interviewees felt guilty and/or shameful the majority of the time they purchased sex.
HARM: 42% stated that prostitution causes both psychological and physical damage to women. 13% of interviewees had witnessed an act of extreme violence perpetrated against a woman in prostitution.

Make of it what you will. Note that I have previously mentioned the support for legalising sex work by the NZ Prostitutes Collective, which cited reducing violence against sex workers as one reason for making the trade licit.

Marriage and civil unions in NZ - the reality

In 2006, civil unions became legal. These provided an alternative for both gay and straight couples, and were essentially identical to marriages. I, personally, thought they should have bit the bullet and called it by what it was, but that's a fight for another day.

They're not doing much. In 2006 (the first year tehy were available), there were 374 civil unions. In 2007 there were 316. This represents 1.5% of the number of traditional marriages

No doubt this explains the lack of Biblical inundation as God punishes NZ for its tolerance of sodomy. Mind you, it has rained all weekend, so perhaps Teh Gay can still be blamed.

The number of marriages is slipping, and in 2006 47.2% of NZ kids were born outside a marriage - the word "bastard" has ceased to be an insult here for a long time.

I think the fight over civil unions was a red herring. De facto and temporary arrangements appear to be the trend for the future, which probably doesn't bode well for all sorts of issues.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The Left may not be crazy; it just smells an awful lot like it these days...

Via Julian Sanchez a report on a professor looking at suing her students for asking too many questions.

I've forwarded this to a certain professor in rhetoric. Her reaction ought to be amusing.

Now, I've just found out that the daughter of a friend has just been accepted early into Vic. She intends to be a hard engineer, and will likely end up doing an Applied Science degree. She's been accepted into a B.A. programme to start with. I'll probably be going through the course handbook with her to make suggestions on what she'd want to do for the first year.

I'll print out this story for her and suggest she steer clear of anything involving literary criticism. She'll probably wind up voting ACT, God help us, but at least she'll keep her sanity.

UPDATE: The rhetoric professor notes:

I read about this on FARK. She isn't a prof, but a lecturer. Her book has been out for over a year, which is lots of time for reviews, and she's taken a post-doc. That means she's not done well on the job market. So, she's having trouble finding a good job--not a surprise. Her book is with Peter Lang, which is not a very prestigious scholarly press. Both of those facts are indications that the system is, in fact, working, and she's headed down the academic ladder. She'll end up grading standardized tests.

She's also a little tin pot tyrant.