Saturday, August 08, 2015

Saturday Night Music: Clara Schumann

Clara Schumann (1819-1896) - Nocturne in F major Op.6 No.2 from 'Soirées Musicales' :

Clara Schumann was married to the composer Robert Schumann. She had eight children and:

often took charge of finances and general household affairs. Part of her responsibility included making money, which she did by giving concerts, although she continued to play throughout her life not only for the income, but because she was a concert artist by training and by nature. She was the main breadwinner for her family, and the sole one after Robert was hospitalized and then died, through giving concerts and teaching, and she did most of the work of organizing her own concert tours. She hired a housekeeper and a cook to keep house while she was away on her long tours. She refused to accept charity when a group of musicians offered to put on a benefit concert for her. In addition to raising her own large family, when one of her children became incapacitated, she took on responsibility for raising her grandchildren.
Robert Schumann, on Clara's composing:

Clara has composed a series of small pieces, which show a musical and tender ingenuity such as she has never attained before. But to have children, and a husband who is always living in the realm of imagination, does not go together with composing. She cannot work at it regularly, and I am often disturbed to think how many profound ideas are lost because she cannot work them out.

The list of her compositions can be found here.

Friday, August 07, 2015

More Vacation Impressions: On Grrl Painters, Multiculturalism and the Sky

I parked next to a painters' van.  Two house painters in their white overalls got out of it, both young women with long braids.  Not a common sight in the US.  More cultural differences.

The local political topics include a debate about Finnish  multiculturalism and/or its absence.  The latter seems to be* equated with racism.   I haven't studied the various concepts of multiculturalism(s) enough to understand that exact equivalence,  but I'd love to learn how different concepts of multiculturalism solve the contradiction between, say, the goals of gender equality or LGBT rights with the simultaneous acceptance of those cultural-religious values which are built on gender inequality and the desire to criminalize lesbian and gay lifestyles.**

Or am I defining "culture" incorrectly here?  What IS it in the context of multiculturalism anyway?  What happens when "side-by-side" cultures clash in a multicultural society?  Who are the representatives of a minority culture in wider public debates?  The old powerful guys? And is it they who decide what their cultures mean?  Sometimes it looks like that to me
On the other hand, if cultures are defined by excluding those bits I detest (lower status of women etc.), then I'm all for multiculturalism.  Let all flowers bloom!

How's that for a bit of fuzzy thinking and blogging?  The sad thing is  that most every blogging topic requires an enormous amount of silent and boring  research work, and I'm on vacation, so you only get my naive initial thoughts on that topic.  But it's crucial that we discuss and understand the way feminism relates to multiculturalism, and that debate must include the way those concepts are seen from the inside of various cultures, not just from some academic angle.

 The sky.  I can't get enough of the sky.  Why does it look bigger here?  Is it because of the latitude?  Clean air?  Also, I saw a cloud in the shape of a slithering snake today.  To welcome me.

Almost forgot!  Croissants are about 40 cents each, presumably because they are shipped frozen-and-unbaked from the European South in large batches.  They are  then baked here.  The economies to scale must be why the prices are so low.

*  How to define sexism and racism?  The definitions are tricky and often cover many different phenomena, but usually sexism is based on the perceived female gender of its object combined with overall unwarranted negative views about women as a class, and usually racism is based on the perceived race of its object and on negative unwarranted views about individuals of that perceived race as a class.  Note that it doesn't matter if race is not a real biological concept for these purposes.

Having negative views about a culture doesn't seem to me to be the same as racism.  What it is requires a long post on its own.  I should point out here that all cultures have something to criticize and something to praise.  A baseless criticism of a culture, would, however, have some of the flavor of sexism and racism, but it needs its own name.

** Is the US a multicultural society?  For example, do the Christian fundamentalist form a culture which we should respect, along with many others?  Given the cultural values of women's subjugation and opposition to LGBT rights in that culture, what would it mean for me, say, to respect it?

The Ur-Slut and Pay-For-Your-Own Fornication. How Conservatives Respond to Worries About the Hobby Lobby Decision. A Re-Posting

This post is roughly a year old by now, but it still reads well to me as my opinions about the ur-slut question:  the way conservatives view sex as a ballgame where men are supposed to always try for sex while women are expected to defend the "net."  If men get the ball in the goal, then the women are sluts.

But wait, there's more:  The post also describes the ideological background of the Hobby Lobby decision and in general provides a bridge of understanding:  Liberals need to know what conservatives mean by sex (unmarried, wild, carried out by women all on their own), who is not supposed to have it (repeat previous message in parentheses)  and who presumably benefits from unfair government subsidies (repeat previous message in parentheses).

Go here to read the post.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

From My Classics Archives: The Day of Retribution. On Elliot Rodger, the Butcher of Santa Barbara

(This mini-series of classics covers a few of my recent long posts, the ones that required a lot of hard work.  Each of them is of value about the individual phenomenon it covers, but I hope that each of them is also of value in a more general sense. 

As an example, I wrote about the murders Elliot Rodger committed as an example of how misogyny intertwines with potential mental illness and how various Internet sites might support those misogynistic attitudes, thus making future massacres more likely.  Thus, the post teaches us something about how misogyny is seeded, watered and tended and what its flowers might look like.  But the basic principles can be applied to white supremacist sites, ISIS sites and so on.)

Read the original post.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Why Price Competition Doesn't Work in Most Health Care Markets. A Re-Posting.

(This is from last December, but everything in it still applies.  Indeed, those conservatives who worship the free-market-gods should know that economists widely acknowledge health care to be the one market where most everything that can go wrong with unregulated markets will go wrong.  That's because of the very nature of the services which are traded.) 

The New York Times has published a good article on the wildly varying prices for diagnostic procedures and the apparent stickiness of those prices at the upper tail of the distribution.  The quickest possible look tells us that the prices are not set based on some kind of marginal cost thinking, as simple market models assume.  For example:

With pricing uncoupled from the actual cost of business, large disparities have evolved. The five hospitals within a 15-mile radius of Mr. Charlap’s home here charge an average of about $5,200 for an echocardiogram, according to an analysis of Medicare’s database. The seven teaching hospitals in Boston, affiliated with Harvard, Tufts and Boston University, charge an average of about $1,300 for the same test. There are even wide variations within cities: In Philadelphia, prices range from $700 to $12,000.
You don't need to know anything more than that to know that the markets are not truly competitive, that consumers are uninformed about the prices (except after the fact when it's too late to shop around) and that the supply side has price-setting power.

In other words, competition doesn't lower prices*.  Rather the reverse, in fact:

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Greetings from Yurp

I forgot to put up the usual gone-to-the-beach post, to let you know  that  I'm on vacation.  This time I'm going to write a few posts every week, tho I also prepared a lot of posts for you in July*, just in case I actually go to the beach!

Anyway, here are my first Finnish impressions**:

The sky is very very blue, the clouds are fat three-dimensional sheep, and what's a heatwave here requires a woolen sweater.

Lots of dads out alone with their kids***, running errands, doing the grocery shopping or just having fun.  The difference is significant compared to my usual US location (where dads-with-kids is a weekend phenomenon), and it's probably a cultural difference.

More women delivering heavy parcels to shops, more women driving buses and trucks.  Another cultural difference.

More people, including old people, on bikes everywhere.

Salty liquorice.  I've missed it, though you might not.


* This is so that you won't desert me!  I am very insecure.  Also, most of the stuff is pretty good.
** The kind which might be of interest to my sweet and erudite readers.  I haven't had time to learn much about the local politics yet.
*** Unless they are those Swedish male nannies.

Motherhood Tuesday 1. How To Make Being A Mother More Difficult And Other Pertinent Issues

The posts on the next four Tuesdays will be about research and media debates about motherhood.  Not about parenthood, mind you, but motherhood, though there is overlap between the way the two terms are viewed.  It's pretty rare, even today, to have a lot of research on fatherhood.  But some exists, and I talk about the problems about that in a few weeks' time.

Today's topic, expressed in this 2013 post, has to do with aspects of motherhood which are not quite as visible but very much present.  For example, in that post I write:

Something every bit as bizarre applies to fertility.  It struck me forcibly some days ago, and I had to stew the idea for a bit to decide if I'm oversensitive or not.  I decided I am not.
Here's the thought:  If you wanted to make having children as difficult and costly as possible, both in monetary and psychological ways, how would you go about doing it?  I think the answer is that you would follow many of the current policies in the US:  Minimize parental leave, refuse to make allowances for fertility in how the labor markets treat workers (no subsidized daycare, no real flexitime etc.) assume that all childcare will be done by the woman who gave birth to the child, fight to remove subsidized education as a viable alternative and support instead home-schooling, largely done by mothers.

Or think of the literature on child development.  Ninety-nine percent of articles about parenting are about the mothers, and the vast majority of those look at what mothers are doing wrong (not enough breast-feeding, not enough bonding, too much bonding,  too much fatty food cooked for the children, the cooking always assumed to be the mother's responsibility, bad mother-child relationships as the cause of childhood depression etc etc.)  And the later popular-psychology pieces are still very often about bad mothers and how they messed up their children.  Think of the "Mommy Dearest" branch of memoirs.  Think also of the Control Of The Bad Mother movement!  This begins before the child is even born.

Then add the legal rules about what constitutes child neglect (leaving a child under twelve alone in a parked car for a few minutes, say), the persistent media-supported fears about pedophilia, the requirement that middle-class parents (mothers) chauffeur their children from one event to another, how listening to Mozart during pregnancy or watching Little Einstein after it with the baby are necessary parts of child-rearing and if you don't follow them, you are a Bad Mother.  Or a Bad Parent.  At the same time, the wider public spaces are ultimately not child-friendly at all, what with complaints from other plane passengers or other restaurant diners etc.

The restrictions on parental life keep growing, and the guilt (aimed at mothers, in particular)  comes from all directions, including from other mothers in the Mommy Wars.  But to an alien from outer space, whatever gender that creature might be, all this surely looks like an intentional policy to cut back on fertility rates!

The obvious flaw in that last sentence is that the US does NOT want to reduce fertility rates!  The Republicans want more white children, for one thing, and the forced-birthers don't want women to have so much power over whether they will become mothers or not.

At the same time, the actual US policies are largely anti-children and certainly not supportive of parents.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Research Monday 1: On Retractions, Failures To Replicate and Other Bad Stuff

You get a flavor of the problems salivating and short-sighted popularization of "sexy" studies can create from this post.

I strongly recommend reading it, about a retraction of a study which argued that women are more likely to orgasm while having sex with wealthy men, because the failure it describes is a severe one, and that failure is the reluctance of journalists to tell us which studies turned out to be rubbish, especially after those same journalists avidly publicized them.  This means that it is the flawed results which readers of those journalists will believe in.

An example of a possible failure for a study to replicate is discussed in this post.  It's worth noting that NYT's John Tierney popularized the first study in his column, but as far as I can tell he never discussed the second study.  As an aside, John Tierney never found a study about the perfidy of women that wasn't worth publishing!  I have the material for that post but haven't had the time to write it up yet.

Finally, this post is all about the great interest in women's eggs and ovulation, with some pertinent links to what can go wrong in research if only people with the same bias (like the same religion) carry it out.

I keep harping on these problems not because I wouldn't love research.  I adore it!  And that's why I want it to do better.  It's my form of tough love.