Archive for January, 2005

Service for Axi

<img src=”;

The service will be held at 7 PM Tuesday at at the Shambala Center at
2030 Sansom Street. There will be space durring or after the service
for people to remember her in their own way. Sing a song, do a dance,
read a poem. Some food will be provided, but feel free to bring more.

January 31, 2005 at 2:58 pm Leave a comment

I Think of You And Let It Go

<img src=”;

<img src=”;

<img src=”;

January 30, 2005 at 7:04 pm 5 comments

Isolation’s No Good

<img src=”;

I keep remembering that all she wants to do is love. I keep forgetting that she’s dying. I wear my surgical mask even though people tell me it doesn’t matter anymore. She’s so tired, it is so hard for her to talk through the oxygen mask. I want to smile at her but she can’t see or hear me through my surgical mask. I don’t know what to say so I just look into her eyes and tell her I love her. I hold her hand and massage her bruised arms. She introduces us to two other friends and then falls in and out of sleep. Her hair is growing back. I want to touch it because it looks soft like a baby chick but I don’t know if it’s okay. Only her mother should touch her head. Her Mom is very matter of fact about things. It’s not a good day for her. They gave her medicine to sleep better but now she can’t stay awake. The nurse comes in to give her something that looks like a pipe. She has to take the oxgen mask off to inhale something from it. Her mother helps her. She fusses a bit. “I don’t like it when you…” We’re happy because fussing still means life. She sits bolt upright and says “Isolation’s no good….I love all of you….but I need to sleep.” I tell her I’ll be back tomorrow.

January 28, 2005 at 7:29 pm 3 comments

Three Sane Things About Bright Eyes

<img src=”;

Since he’s in town this week, there will be lots of slobbery features on him that are chasing the drooling new Dylan features in big fat magazines who continue to advance the Great Man Theories. One of my colleagues actually asked me if I was “a believer.”

If you get disgusted, refer to these three:

Keef is free not to hate–or use hyperbole

Bright Eyes and Robert Smith and Elvis Costello- scroll down to 1/19.

Jessica just asks why.

Or whatever Amy Phillips says.

January 26, 2005 at 12:03 am 7 comments

One Good Thing About Winter

<img src=”;

Putting snow booties on my housemates’ terrier, who looks like a scrappier version of the doggie pictured here. That might have been the best thing I did all day, or perhaps all year. Poor, sweet thing. When I get real pics of her, I’ll post them.

January 25, 2005 at 11:44 pm Leave a comment

Whither Friendster?

“The service was growing faster than we could keep up with, so we spent all this time making sure the service was stable,” said the former employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “A lot of people were frustrated because we weren’t rolling out a lot of features but instead working on infrastructure.”

The irony is that Friendster’s infrastructure was probably what drove lots of people away. How many messages has that thing eaten?

January 25, 2005 at 3:03 pm 1 comment

And Another

January 24, 2005 at 8:55 pm 1 comment

More Articles on Women and Science

Sorry that I don’t have much else to say. My head is filled with mucous and it’s time for bed again:

Gray Matter and the Sexes: Still a Scientific Gray Area

January 24, 2005

When Lawrence H. Summers, the president of Harvard,
suggested this month that one factor in women’s lagging progress in science and mathematics might be innate differences between the sexes, he slapped a bit of brimstone into a debate that has simmered for decades. And though his comments elicited so many fierce reactions that he quickly apologized, many were left to wonder: Did he have a point?

Has science found compelling evidence of inherent sex disparities in the relevant skills, or perhaps in the drive to succeed at all costs, that could help account for the persistent paucity of women in science generally, and at the upper tiers of the profession in particular?

Researchers who have explored the subject of sex
differences from every conceivable angle and organ say that yes, there are a host of discrepancies between men and women – in their average scores on tests of quantitative skills, in their attitudes toward math and science, in the architecture of their brains, in the way they metabolize medications, including those that affect the brain.

Yet despite the desire for tidy and definitive answers to complex questions, researchers warn that the mere finding of a difference in form does not mean a difference in function or output inevitably follows.

“We can’t get anywhere denying that there are neurological
and hormonal differences between males and females, because there clearly are,” said Virginia Valian, a psychology professor at Hunter College who wrote the 1998 book “Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women.” “The trouble we have as scientists is in assessing their significance to real-life performance.”

For example, neuroscientists have shown that women’s brains
are about 10 percent smaller than men’s, on average, even
after accounting for women’s comparatively smaller body

But throughout history, people have cited anatomical distinctions in support of overarching hypotheses that turn out merely to reflect the societal and cultural prejudices of the time.

A century ago, the French scientist Gustav Le Bon pointed
to the smaller brains of women – closer in size to
gorillas’, he said – and said that explained the
“fickleness, inconstancy, absence of thought and logic, and incapacity to reason” in women.

Overall size aside, some evidence suggests that female
brains are relatively more endowed with gray matter – the prized neurons thought to do the bulk of the brain’s thinking – while men’s brains are packed with more white matter, the tissue between neurons.

To further complicate the portrait of cerebral diversity,
new brain imaging studies from the University of
California, Irvine, suggest that men and women with equal
I.Q. scores use different proportions of their gray and
white matter when solving problems like those on
intelligence tests.

Men, they said, appear to devote 6.5 times as much of their gray matter to intelligence-related tasks as do women, while women rely far more heavily on white matter to pull them through a ponder.

What such discrepancies may or may not mean is anyone’s conjecture.

“It is cognition that counts, not the physical matter that
does the cognition,” argued Nancy Kanwisher, a professor of neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

When they do study sheer cognitive prowess, many
researchers have been impressed with how similarly young
boys and girls master new tasks.

“We adults may think very different things about boys and girls, and treat them accordingly, but when we measure their capacities, they’re remarkably alike,” said Elizabeth Spelke, a professor of psychology at Harvard. She and her colleagues study basic spatial, quantitative and numerical abilities in children ranging from 5 months through 7 years.

“In that age span, you see a considerable number of the
pieces of our mature capacities for spatial and numerical reasoning coming together,” Dr. Spelke said. “But while we always test for gender differences in our studies, we never find them.”

In adolescence, though, some differences in aptitude begin
to emerge, especially when it comes to performance on standardized tests like the SAT. While average verbal scores are very similar, boys have outscored girls on the math half of the dreaded exam by about 30 to 35 points for the past three decades or so.

Nor is the masculine edge in math unique to the United
States. In an international standardized test administered
in 2003 by the international research group Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development to 250,000 15-year-olds in 41 countries, boys did moderately better on the math portion in just over half the nations. For nearly all the other countries, there were no significant sex differences.

But average scores varied wildly from place to place and
from one subcategory of math to the next. Japanese girls,
for example, were on par with Japanese boys on every math section save that of “uncertainty,” which measures probabilistic skills, and Japanese girls scored higher over all than did the boys of many other nations, including the United States.

In Iceland, girls broke the mold completely and outshone Icelandic boys by a significant margin on all parts of the test, as they habitually do on their national math exams. “We have no idea why this should be so,” said Almar Midvik Halldorsson, project manager for the Educational Testing Institute in Iceland.

Interestingly, in Iceland and everywhere else, girls participating in the survey expressed far more negative attitudes toward math.

The modest size and regional variability of the sex
differences in math scores, as well as an attitudinal
handicap that girls apparently pack into their No. 2 pencil case, convince many researchers that neither sex has a monopoly on basic math ability, and that culture rather than chromosomes explains findings like the gap in math SAT scores.

Yet Dr. Summers, who said he intended his remarks to be provocative, and other scientists have observed that while average math skillfulness may be remarkably analogous between the sexes, men tend to display comparatively greater range in aptitude. Males are much likelier than females to be found on the tail ends of the bell curve, among the superhigh scorers and the very bottom performers.

Among college-bound seniors who took the math SAT’s in
2001, for example, nearly twice as many boys as girls
scored over 700, and the ratio skews ever more male the
closer one gets to the top tally of 800. Boys are also
likelier than girls to get nearly all the answers wrong.

For Dr. Summers and others, the overwhelmingly male tails
of the bell curve may be telling. Such results, taken
together with assorted other neuro-curiosities like the comparatively greater number of boys with learning disorders, autism and attention deficit disorder, suggest to them that the male brain is a delicate object, inherently prone to extremes, both of incompetence and of genius.

But few researchers who have analyzed the data believe that men’s greater representation among the high-tail scores can explain more than a small fraction of the sex disparities in career success among scientists.

For one thing, said Kimberlee A. Shauman, a sociologist at
the University of California, Davis, getting a high score
on a math aptitude test turns out to be a poor predictor of
who opts for a scientific career, but it is an especially
poor gauge for girls. Catherine Weinberger, an economist at
the University of California, Santa Barbara, has found that top-scoring girls are only about 60 percent as likely as top-scoring boys to pursue science or engineering careers, for reasons that remain unclear.

Moreover, men seem perfectly capable of becoming scientists without a math board score of 790. Surveying a representative population of working scientists and engineers, Dr. Weinberger has discovered that the women were likelier than the men to have very high test scores. “Women are more cautious about entering these professions unless they have very high scores to begin with,” she said.

And this remains true even though a given score on
standardized math tests is less significant for women than
for men. Dr. Valian, of Hunter, observes that among women
and men taking the same advanced math courses in college,
women with somewhat lower SAT scores often do better than
men with higher scores. “The SAT’s turn out to underpredict female and overpredict male performance,” she said. Again, the reasons remain mysterious.

Dr. Summers also proposed that perhaps women did not go
into science because they found it too abstract and cold-blooded, offering as anecdotal evidence the fact that his young daughter, when given toy trucks, had treated them as dolls, naming them “Daddy truck” and “baby truck.”

But critics dryly observed that men had a longstanding tradition of naming their vehicles, and babying them as though they were humans.

Yu Xie, a sociologist at the University of Michigan and a co-author with Dr. Shauman of “Women in Science: Career Processes and Outcomes” (2003), said he wished there was less emphasis on biological explanations for success or failure, and more on effort and hard work.

Among Asians, he said, people rarely talk about having a
gift or a knack or a gene for math or anything else. If a student comes home with a poor grade in math, he said, the parents push the child to work harder.

“There is good survey data showing that this disbelief in innate ability, and the conviction that math achievement can be improved through practice,” Dr. Xie said, “is a tremendous cultural asset in Asian society and among Asian-Americans.”

In many formerly male-dominated fields like medicine and
law, women have already reached parity, at least at the
entry levels. At the undergraduate level, women outnumber
men in some sciences like biology.

Thus, many argue that it is unnecessary to invoke “innate differences” to explain the gap that persists in fields like physics, engineering, mathematics and chemistry. Might scientists just be slower in letting go of baseless sexism?

C. Megan Urry, a professor of physics and astronomy at Yale
who led the American delegation to an international
conference on women in physics in 2002, said there was
clear evidence that societal and cultural factors still hindered women in science.

Dr. Urry cited a 1983 study in which 360 people – half men, half women – rated mathematics papers on a five-point scale. On average, the men rated them a full point higher when the author was “John T. McKay” than when the author was “Joan T. McKay.” There was a similar, but smaller disparity in the scores the women gave.

Dr. Spelke, of Harvard, said, “It’s hard for me to get
excited about small differences in biology when the
evidence shows that women in science are still
discriminated against every stage of the way.”

A recent experiment showed that when Princeton students
were asked to evaluate two highly qualified candidates for
an engineering job – one with more education, the other
with more work experience – they picked the more educated candidate 75 percent of the time. But when the candidates were designated as male or female, and the educated candidate bore a female name, suddenly she was preferred only 48 percent of the time.

The debate is sure to go on.

Sandra F. Witelson, a
professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said biology might yet be found to play some role in women’s careers in the sciences.

“People have to have an open mind,” Dr. Witelson said.

January 24, 2005 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

VH versus VIP

<img src=”;

Apparently Van Halen doesn’t like their famous V being appropriated by VIP, a Philly rap group who aspire to be the gay, white, male Lil Kim (or a more pottymouthed L’trimm). (Though, I think David Lee Roth would approve). Somehow the humorless Eddie Van Halen and co. managed to overlook this same appropriation from the emo girlymen in Weezer.

<img src=”;

Van Halen’s next album title: Keep Your Grubby Gay Hands Off Our Logo

January 23, 2005 at 8:24 pm 2 comments

No More Wild, Wacky Stuff

<img src=”;

“I have an ego like anybody else,” Carson told The Washington Post, “but I don’t need to be stoked by going before the public all the time.”

January 23, 2005 at 7:45 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts


January 2005

Posts by Month

Posts by Category