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Friday, January 27, 2012

New research findings on intelligence and socio-political ideology

"Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice" by Stephanie Pappas, (January 26, 2012)

Building on earlier research that has linked lower levels of education and higher levels of prejudice, a new study suggests that "strict right-wing ideology might appeal to those who have trouble grasping the complexity of the world."
"Socially conservative ideologies tend to offer structure and order," [lead researcher Gordon] Hodson said, explaining why these beliefs might draw those with low intelligence. "Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice."
Findings are correlative, not causative, and the claim doesn't seem to be that "all conservatives are stupid," but that there may be a connection between low intelligence and socio-political ideologies that are bad at engaging with unfamiliar people and ideas, and the nuance and complexity that comes with intercultural contact. I'd be interested to read the researchers' presentation of their findings -- the article linked here eventually mentions that they were published in "Psychological Science" on January 5th. I haven't found a way to access that publication yet, but will let you know if I do.

Thanks to M.D. (I found this via her FB).

Monday, January 23, 2012


A small thing, but one I'd been meaning to do since I lived in San Francisco. I kept putting it off there, but finally got the ladder and the clips out today...

In case you can't tell by looking, it's a clothes line, now hung with photos, cards, postcards, and clippings. Below it, the placeholder for another project -- a photo wall. It looks a little less lopsided when you're not photographing it while leaning back off of the couch. A little.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A little kitchen experiment

Or, more accurately, a bar experiment: vodka + Brita filter + persimmons. Before the holidays, I had a lot of persimmons on the counter, and not enough time to eat them all before leaving town. So, I threw them in the freezer, thinking I'd make persimmon bread with them -- I don't know how to make persimmon bread, or whether it'll work right if the persimmons have been frozen, but I figured I'd figure it out. There will still be persimmon bread, but I decided to try a different experiment first.

Some time ago, my friend A. told me that someone told him that running not-so-awesome vodka through the Brita filter helps it become more delicious. I'd been meaning to test that out, but hadn't gotten around to it yet. More recently, I read a couple of articles about infusing alcohol with various things (one was about strawberry vodka, the other about celery bitters). I'd been thinking of doing a cucumber or celery vodka, because I think that would make for some delicious cocktails, but I got inspired when I saw the persimmon sitting in the freezer. So, here's the experiment in progress:

Vodka + Brita filter + persimmons = ???

Hypothesis: Quadruple-filtered persimmon vodka will be delicious. I'll report my findings soon!

Funny, what you find in the basement...

Well this is pretty neat: "UK scientists find 'lost' Darwin fossils."

Reminds me why I like libraries, museums, and archive full of old books and actual, physical artifacts -- you can't stumble across things like this unless they're actually sitting there to be stumbled across. Also reminds me why I love the digital age: so many more of us will be able to see these fossils now, without having to travel to them.

From the Sir Joseph D. Hooker Collection, British Geological Survey

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nichelle Nichols talks about Star Trek and Martin Luther King, Jr

I hadn't heard about this encounter before now, but I love it! As someone who already believes that the stories we tell are important, that TV and films both shape and reflect us (sometimes in ways we don't acknowledge or even understand), and that speculative fiction can be a particularly powerful way for us to imagine human possibility, I find the idea of MLK telling Nichols to stay with Star Trek for the greater good quite moving. And it puts me in mind of another SFF character that broke racial barriers, at least for this viewer:

NYPD Detective Elisa Maza

Elisa Maza was one of many awesome things about Gargoyles, the utterly fantastic animated series that ran as part of the Disney Afternoon from 1994-1996. One episode of the show, entitled "The Journey," aired on ABC in Disney's One Saturday Morning programming.

Other sources will tell you that the ABC episode I speak of was actually the first of 13, the beginning of a spin-off called something ridiculous, like "Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles." This is patently untrue, as the monstrosity that aired on ABC was not at all the same show, and should, for the most part, be forgotten. Or disavowed. Or stabbed until killed. Dead. It may help you to know at this point that, in my mind, Heroes will be easy to marathon, when I finally get around to it, because it only ran for one season. I also maintain that The Matrix was an excellent movie, and had no sequels.

But I digress.

Elisa Maza was notable to me because she was a serious badass -- a lady cop with a great old car, a killer roundhouse, and serious attitude, she flew with the Gargoyles, taking on baddies from mobsters to mythical creatures to an uber-rich supervillain diabolical enough to have his own TV Trope. She also had Fantastic Disney Hair.

As if all of that wasn't enough to make her my favorite, here's a picture of her family:


Seated is a young and uncharacteristically pale-faced Elisa Maza. Standing, far left, is her dad, Peter Maza. On the far right is her mom, Diane Maza. The younger man is Elisa's brother, Derek, who later becomes an important character in his own right. In the middle is Beth Maza, the youngest of the family. We meet all save Beth in "Deadly Force," about halfway-ish through Season One, when shit gets so real that a worried Maza family gathers at Elisa's hospital bedside. At that first intro, it's clear that Diane Maza is African American, and that Peter Maza is not. I believe it's not until Season 2 that we're told he's of Hopi descent. I remember my response being something along the lines of, "Wait, so Elisa Maza's really, really not white? Sweet!"

It doesn't seem like it would be a big deal, a random cartoon character being multi-ethnic. But something about the way that it was handled, as if it were the most normal thing in the world, made her that much more exciting. Maybe it was the fact that I loved that show, that I thought that character had a lot of good things going. Or maybe it was the fact that, thinking back, I couldn't remember another black female character on a cartoon I'd loved since Shana (Jem, 1985-1988) and Diana (Dungeons and Dragons, 1983-1985). 

Shana, far left. Her hair was truly outrageous.

Diana (aka The Acrobat). I never understood why she was wearing a fur bikini.

But I think it was more than that. For me, Elisa Maza was an animated descendant of Lt. Uhura - a female character of color, making it look perfectly normal for brown women to kick ass and wield power. Instead of outer space, she traveled through time, around the world, and through the streets and skies of Manhattan, encountering new life and new civilizations of her own.

Of course, Elisa Maza traced her lineage back to the Enterprise in more explicit ways: Diane Maza, a native New Yorker whose ancestors hail from Nigeria, was voiced by none other than Lt. Uhura herself, Nichelle Nichols. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

"The one about cousin Tomasita and the goat who could play fĂștbol."

A friend of mine has a story out today, over at Strange Horizons! "Recognizing Gabe: un cuento de hadas." Give it a read -- it's good. In the author's words, the story is about "seeing and being seen. Also, tamales."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

First craft project of 2012

I saw an article on things to do with old denim, and decided to try one of them: a 3-pocket gadget protector. My new iPhone's screen gets gross a lot faster than my old one, so I'm hoping this will help a bit. I might add a zipper at some point, but didn't have one on hand.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What exactly do people think people in the Humanities do with their time?

David Brooks at The New Yorker explains how only science can help make the next generation less shallow, "filling the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy."

Wow -- good to know how much of my time I've wasted as a scholar and teacher in the humanities. And here I thought I'd been teaching texts, skills, and personal-interactive habits that aided in the understanding of other people and underlying patterns of thought, action, and writing; the recognition of shortcomings (intellectual and otherwise); and the imagining of alternate futures, not to mention the actual pasts that make them possible even to imagine, much less attain. I wish The New Yorker had told me back in 1994 that only science, and none of the other disciplines that explore "emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, predispositions, character traits, and social bonding" -- not to mention attachments, imagination, empathy, perception, discernment, meaning, and the importance of "the mental virtues that lead to practical wisdom" --  could tell us anything of value about humanity. I certainly wouldn't have wasted my time studying, writing, and teaching in the humanities. How dare we even call them that?! I'd have stopped studying religion, philosophy, and literature, and I certainly wouldn't have bothered becoming an ethicist.

Alas, too late for me to avoid those wasted years. But, now that I've heard of this new study of human nature -- something our so-called-humanities obviously have no interest in -- I'm sure I'll have no problem living the type of emotionally active, critically engaged, imaginative, social existence in question. Of course, which emotions, in what measure, when, and with what limits? How do I choose what to engage with and how? How do I know whether my imagination has left something important out, or clung to an unnecessary assumption? Too bad there's no way for me to learn about what others have thought of these questions, to encounter both texts and actual human beings that push me to ask them, and to attempt to articulate an answer, even when the issue is more complex than which gelato to have. I suppose I'll have to wait until science can do that.