Monthly Archives: December 2011

Facebook, religion and Tim Minchin

A friend of mine posted the following quote to his Facebook status late last night:

If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.
H. P. Lovecraft

By the time he logged back on this morning, the comments were packed with offended Christians, who immediately launched an attack on atheism.  The whole thing got rather contentious, and at some point, someone stated that it would be better if everyone wasn’t so closed of mind.  Of course, this reminded me of one of my favorite Tim Minchin bits, which I posted for the enjoyment of the participants.

Of course, if one Tim Minchin bit is good, then two must be better.

It’s always somewhat startling to me how a simple statement suggesting that religion’s claims of truth might not, in fact, be true, prompts so much righteous indignation.  Finally, in the spirit of the season, here is Tim Minchin celebrating Christmas.  Seriously.


Guess who’s coming to dinner? Tucker Carlson.

I know, you’re all like, Tucker who?   I had to look up his Wikipedia page just to remind myself of his resume.

Anyway, the Illinois Humanities Counsel, as part of an annual fundraiser, auctioned off a dinner with Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.  The couple will cook dinner and offer conversation to the winner, who happens to be….Tucker Carlson.  If you’re not a wingnut who is obsessed with President Obama’s birth certificate, or radical Islamism, or whatever other tinfoil hat conspiracy, you can be forgiven for not remembering Ayers and Dohrn.

The whole story cracks me up.  Carlson, a “conservative” who fancies himself as an intellectual (as well as otherwise fancying himself), attempting to ooze his way out of obscurity by chasing down another obscure wingnut fantasy.  The man has all the intellectual capacity of a brain damaged marmot.

However, Carlson will always have a place in my heart for the Crossfire interview with Jon Stewart, in which Stewart’s responses to Carlson’s lame and inept attacks led to the canceling of the show.  Awesome.

The clip is long, but sooooo worth watching, and still very relevant.  If you don’t have time to watch, read the transcript here.


Goodbye Christopher Hitchens

The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long.


Edited to add a favorite Hitchens quote, from Letters to A Young Contrarian:

Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.


Today in debunking quackery: No demonstrable gender difference in math ability.

Awesome.  This’ll really upset the Bell Curve crowd.

Researchers have done a broad study of math ability across multiple countries, and their totally not-shocking result is that there is no real biological gender difference in math ability, leading to the also totally not shocking conclusion that the differences displayed are social and cultural.

The researchers blew away Larry Summers’ favorite biological hypothesis that he got fired for, which was the “greater male variability” hypothesis.  They also took a swipe at Freakonomics’ Steven Levitt, who argued that same-gender classrooms in Muslim cultures are beneficial for girls.  Turns out that’s not true either.  Here is what they did find:

It’s an interesting, counter-intuitive idea, but it also appears to be completely wrong. The authors say that, upon close examination of the data, girls in these single-gender classrooms still scored quite poorly. The boys in these countries, such as Bahrain and Oman, had scored even worse, but Kane suggests that’s because many attend religious schools with little emphasis on mathematics.

Also, low-performing girls are often pressured to drop out of school and so don’t appear in the statistics, which falsely inflates the girls’ overall performance. The point, says Kane, is that these differing scores don’t point to benefits of gender-separated classrooms or speak to features of Muslim culture as a whole – rather, they’re due to social factors in play in a few countries, and the single-gender classrooms are just a confounding variable.

Indeed, Mertz and Kane were able to demonstrate pretty much the exact opposite of those hypotheses: as a general rule, high gender equality doesn’t just remove the gender gap, it also improves test scores overall. In particular, countries where women have high participation in the labor force, and command salaries comparable to those of their male counterparts, generally have the highest math scores overall.

So…in cultures with greater gender equality, there is not only no gender gap, but all math scores go up.  It’s almost like equality is beneficial or something.

What Have I Done?

If it’s Friday, it’s the Clash.


I’ve been running Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday…..


Taking a moment

I am not normally inclined to talk about the personal here, but I need a safe place to kvetch a little.  My billing year ends on December 15, and I have approximately 90+ hours that I still need to bill.  This may be a little too inside-baseball-ish for the non-lawyers, but only 40+ hours of that requirement is for revenue generating files; that is, actual legal work, like research, brief writing, responding to pleadings, and drafting opinions.  50 or so of those hours are intended to be “administrative work,” which includes everything that isn’t revenue generating.  I can easily bill 40 hours on actual legal work.  I could do that in my sleep.  But, this administrative bullshit is killing me.  The managing attorney in my department tells me that it doesn’t matter, but after years of experience in the corporate world, I know that not meeting that goal can only hurt me.

Now, the extra administrative burden was there because my company had this plan for all employees to participate in a two day seminar-type thing.  At some point in the middle of the billing year, they jettisoned that plan.  Also, although last year we could bill the hours that we spend on mandatory continuing education to administrative time, this year we were told that we had to do that all on our own time.  The explanation for that is the somewhat nonsensical claim that maintaining our license to practice by participating in state mandated CLE doesn’t have anything to do with our job.  Yeah.  I can’t really imagine how fast they would fire me if I let my license lapse.  Anyway, the point is that for various reasons, I did approximately 40 hours of CLE this year, which, if I had been allowed to bill for it, would go a long way towards covering my extra administrative hours.

The icing on the cake is that I could bill 90+ hours to legal work in the next eight days.  It wouldn’t be comfortable, but I could do it.  However, I have also been informed that I should really avoid billing over my target for revenue generating files.  First, because it doesn’t help me any.  I work in house, so I don’t get any more of a bonus for billing over my target.  Second, because billing over my target only makes management more inclined to raise the bar for next year.

I have no idea what to do.  I’m going to either have to accept a deficit in my goal for administrative hours, or accept criticism for meeting my total hours goal by billing to revenue generating files, and potentially screw myself for next year.

Life would be so much simpler if my job performance was actually measured by my job performance, rather than arbitrary bullshit.

Dear Bravo TV: Please do not sneak any Real Housewives on to Top Chef ever again. Thanks.

There is a reason why I do not watch any of the Real Housewives franchises, and it is because they are generally populated by thoroughly detestable people.

There are several reasons why I like to watch Top Chef.  (1) Tom Colicchio; (2) food; and (3) interesting people who are not usually thoroughly detestable.

Those two combinations do not mix, and I think that Bravo found that out last night when they dragged the Top Cheftestants through the homes of the most boring, horrible, parvenu jackasses in the state of Texas.  Double ugh.  Stop it Bravo.  Just stop.


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