Listening to Myself

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

When pundits get bored...

Things rapidly get out of hand!

Here's an article from the Sacramento Bee, documenting how a Schwarzenegger quote got completely mangled and blown completely out of whack. The quote changes from a rather mild statement about how the Republican party should move back towards the center a bit, to one where he is telling the Republican party that they need to embrace gay marriage and abortion rights. Um, ok, I think some people have had too much spiked eggnog at certain policy institutes.

My favorite part though is the Google ads at the bottom. The first is for the official RNC site, offering to show you how you can help promote the GOP message today. The next is for a site called "Better Dead than Red" which claims to tell the "uncensored story" about how the "Reds are taking over the country". And the last ad is for a petition to support the Ohio recount. I guess the Google algorithm wasn't quite sure what to make of this article...

And one more interesting tidbit...

And one more post for today (since dear daughter is content to play with her legos a bit longer!)

Here's yet another example of how everything is far more complicated than it seems - this Reason article describes some of the fallacies and challenges biologists confront when they attempt to do stem cell research. Here's a very interesting quote, which I hadn't really heard anything about:

John Opitz, a professor of pediatrics, human genetics, and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah, testified before the President's Council on Bioethics that between 60 and 80 percent of all naturally conceived embryos are simply flushed out in women's normal menstrual flows unnoticed.

which leads to this thought:

So millions of viable human embryos each year produced via normal conception fail to implant and never develop further. Does this mean America is suffering a veritable holocaust of innocent human life annihilated? Consider the claim made by right-to-life apologists like Robert George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, that every embryo is "already a human being." Does that mean that if we could detect such unimplanted embryos as they leave the womb, we would have a duty to rescue them and try to implant them anyway?

"If the embryo loss that accompanies natural procreation were the moral equivalent of infant death, then pregnancy would have to be regarded as a public health crisis of epidemic proportions: Alleviating natural embryo loss would be a more urgent moral cause than abortion, in vitro fertilization, and stem-cell research combined," declared Michael Sandel, a Harvard University government professor, also a member of the President's Council on Bioethics.

The article goes on to say that only about half of these embryos are defective in some way - the rest just simply didn't implant for whatever reason. There's also some other very interesting details about the early days of embryonic development, and some suggestions as to how biologists could perhaps make stem cell research palatable for the embryonic right-to-life crowd.

Fixing Social Security

I've been reading quite a few different suggestions about how to alter Social Security, and I think this one is my favorite. I orginally saw it in Fortune magazine, but now it's also posted on the New America Foundation website. I think it's reasonable, pragmatic, not too drastic, and should help both the fiscal solvency of Social Security as well as adding an ownership aspect to the program.

If it seems like such a good idea, does that mean there is no chance at all that it might get through the legislative process? Probably.

Little Green Squeegee Men?

I'm sure the real reason for this isn't nearly as interesting as we would like it to be... (thank you, Glenn Reynolds) They are welcome to a Subaru Impreza Outback Sport windshield as well, especially if they'll clean the inside too.

But it is rather intriguing, isn't it, especially since it keeps happening.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

What haven't you read, that you should have read?

This is a neat thread - what I find facinating about it is that a not insignificant number of these books that people are deeply embarrassed to not have read, I've never even heard of! My goodness that was a convoluted sentence.

I guess that shows the limits of my education... and I guess that applies to both parts of the above paragraph.

I'm trying to think what I consider embarrassing not to have read - I guess it depends on what I consider my field to be. I'll have to think about this a bit more and see if I can come up with anything, as my brain is too tired to think about such heady things as this.

And this is a further thought, from the comments:
"Wonderful question, and if you also asked which is the book one is most embarrassed to to have read, boom, you could read a person's character through the answers to those two questions."

And also, this article from Slate, which starts with:

In his novel Changing Places, David Lodge describes a literary parlor game called "Humiliations" in which participants confess, one by one, titles of books they've never read. The genius of the game is that each player gains a point for each fellow player who's read the book—in other words, the more accomplished the reader, the lower his or her score. Lodge's winner is an American professor who, in a rousing display of one-downmanship, finally announces that he's never read Hamlet.

I think I would like to play this game, especially after a couple glasses of wine.

Monday, December 13, 2004

I just wrote someone off...

I just decided not to respond to someone and I'm not sure how I feel about it. There's someone who's been interested in the cohousing group for several years, but has stayed at the sidelines instead of becoming a member. I think she's gone to a few meetings, but she hasn't for at least a year. Despite her lack of contact with the group, she's made several decisions about the group's priorities and has decided that we aren't interested in making the project work for her needs.

And, really, from her perspective, she's probably right. What she requires in terms of affordability is really drastic - she's a single individual who is looking for something way below the median price of even a small condo. Unless the group finds a really good funding source that is willing to subsidize to that degree, there's virtually no way we could accomodate her needs. Perhaps if we created subsidized 300 sq. ft. studio apartments in the project we might be able to make it work - but if we do that, is there really a demand for it?

We've had a few people here and there who might not need more than that, but there's two big issues at play. First, are they willing to live in a space that small, even if it does mean they get to live in new construction and a cohousing community? Also, are they willing to join so they can have a voice in the process and speak for their needs? I am deeply concerned about a person who says "I will not join unless I know I will get what I want, without even specifically defining what it is I want or participating in the development process to figure out what I want". Joining isn't a signed oath in blood -- it is a commitment to a process that hopes to develop a project that will work for everyone involved in the development process. Should a group really be developing their project for people who are unwilling to join unless they know they will have their way? What does that do for future decisions, and the give and take required to live together peacefully using a consensus based model?

If you develop cohousing for people who are unwilling to be part of the development process, what happens if you get towards the end and those same people aren't interested in stepping up to the plate and joining? I'm sure that they'll be able to find something that they can be unhappy with in the project - afterall, we're only trying to build something that works for everyone, not absolute perfection for every individual (not that this is even possible!). I also feel like some of the people who are unwilling to join show a strong lack trust in the consensus process - they seem to assume that they will not be listened to, and that their voice doesn't matter. I don't know if it is an excuse, allowing them to never have to refine their own goals, or put themselves out there into the public sphere, or if it is just simply fear that they are unable to conquer.

So about this person who wrote to me... I had answered one of her emails, and when her second contained even more vague mischaracterizations of our group than the first, I decided not to answer. I decided she wasn't worth the time it would take to answer her email (yet somehow this post is worth the time?) as it didn't seem like I could ever say enough that she would believe me, and because she doesn't seem like someone who would ever put her money and self on the line and actually join a group. So that's the decision I made, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it... I think this is perhaps an example of when the values of cohousing conflict with the economic reality of cohousing.