Saturday, February 28, 2015


I post cat pictures on Eschaton.  All the cats are stolen cats (posted with the permission of their humans) as I have none.  Here is the latest old and dignified lady cat enjoying some rest and warmth:

What I need to learn from cats is their ability to relax while being ready to pounce.  Anyone who is hooked to the Internet and its various battles and arguments needs to have that ability, the lissom cattiness of relaxed readiness.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to jump on top of houses, too?

This about crows is also quite wonderful for inducing relaxation.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Introduction to A Series Of Posts About Women And ISIS

Since last August I have collected material on the news, pseudo-news, opinion pieces and deeper articles about the terrorist movement which is called by various names (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) and which currently holds large land areas in Syria and Iraq.   My archives are now crammed with stories, my brain is now crammed with various theological and quasi-theological explanations about men and women as well as with arguments concerning local, colonial, global and religious politics.  If I don't write any of that out my head needs to hire an external storage space.

Hence this series which I introduce here.  The goal I had from the very beginning is to study IS (the acronym I choose to use for its brevity) from the angle of how it regards women's proper roles, how it plans to control women and what those plans tell us about the more patriarchal cultural rules concerning women.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Irony Is Dead: Scott Walker, Wisconsin Protesters and Terrorists

Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin,  knows how to deal with terrorist organizations such as ISIS/IS/Daesh.  After all, he managed to control the wild hordes of protesters in Wisconsin!:

Asked how he would handle the Islamic State group if elected president, Walker said, "For years I've been concerned about that threat, not just abroad but here on American soil."
"If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world," he said.

How does one write satire in a world like this?

Walker is also very eager to make an own-goal by doing the bidding of ISIS:

"We need a president, a leader, who will stand up and say we will take the fight to them and not wait 'til they bring the fight to American soil," he said. "We need to show the world that in America you have no better ally and no greater enemy."
Some fraction of the leadership of ISIS aims at creating a global religious war (which will produce the desired end times), and Walker would oblige them.

All this would be utterly hilarious if it wasn't so very dangerous.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

White Privilege in Australian Buses. A Look At An Audit Study.

Ian Ayres' opinion column in the New York Times is about an audit study carried out in Australia.

I love audit studies, because they are a way to control for all the alternative explanations to pure discrimination in consumer and labor markets.  Here's why:

An audit study uses trained individuals to play the role of, say, a car buyer or a job seeker.  The trained individuals are all given the same rules about how to behave, what to ask for and how, how to negotiate and, when relevant, they are also provided resumes etc. of equal value.  The goal is to have these individuals differ in only the characteristic the study is interested in, such as race or gender or both.

If it turns out that the tester's chances of getting a job interview or a good price on a second-hand car indeed vary by race and/or gender, we have ruled out that something else caused the apparent correlation.  Well, we have ruled it out if the audit study was well designed.

The flaw in audit studies is that they cannot continue for years and years, which means that they cannot tell us much about how people are rewarded in their jobs, whether they are promoted purely on the basis of merit, say.  But they are pretty good for measuring potential gender and/or race discrimination against job seekers or car buyers or renters of apartments.

Monday, February 23, 2015

To Praise Saunas. Or Not?

A recent study from Finland suggests that saunas might have the ability to reduce mortality from heart disease:

A study from Finland found that men who use saunas frequently are less likely to die from heart disease. Men's risk was even lower when they visited saunas more often in a week, and when they spent longer periods of time in a sauna each session, the researchers reported.
The findings could cause cardiologists to reconsider commonly held concerns about exposing heart patients to the heat present in a sauna, said Dr. Paul Thompson, medical director of cardiology at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn., and a member of the American College of Cardiology Sports and Exercise Cardiology Council.
"As a cardiologist, I have discouraged patients from using a sauna, from concerns over heat putting demands on a person's cardiovascular system," Thompson said. "Maybe we shouldn't be so restrictive with our patients."

I'd be careful about changing the recommendations too soon.  That's because the role of saunas in Finland is very different from someone in the US suddenly beginning to steam themselves regularly.

Saunas are a weekly custom in Finland.  Almost every single Finn has been in sauna thousands of times by the onset of middle age (and the men in the study were aged between 42 and 60).  The effects might be quite different for someone with no experience in löyly-taking suddenly beginning hour-long sessions of sweating.

I have not read the original study, so I assume that it controls for the initial health status of the men and how much exercise they take in general.  If not, the correlation could be caused by those factors:  Healthier men exercise more and take more saunas, too, and often the sauna is enjoyed after rigorous exercise.  I'm also pretty sure that the Finnish guidelines have also warned heart patients to abstain from sauna.

Still, the findings are thought-provoking.

I love sauna!  Love it, love it, love it.  When I'm in Finland I take one every night, and I miss it here (a hot bath is not a substitute, though I tried).  Some of my fondest childhood memories are running out into the snow bank with my sister to make naked snow angels and then back into the heat of the sauna.

The after-effect does feel quite a bit like having just had a good workout.  A singing of the happy cells of the body, if you like.