April 04, 2015

Breaking: Earning Less Than Similarly Qualified Men Just A Bunch Of Whining Too

Last October, researchers at the Open University of Israel published the results of a study investigating the factors influencing how women recall the pain of labour. According to their rather dry abstract:
We found that despite the exceptional physical and emotional experiences of childbirth, the memory of the pain involved in labor was biased toward the average of the peak pain and the end pain, whereas the duration of the delivery had a relatively negligible effect on the recollected intensity of pain.... [Our analysis] corroborated previous findings that the level of pain toward the end of an experience greatly influences the way the overall experience is remembered.
The study was picked up by science journalism clearinghouse EurekAlert, who glossed it quite reasonably thus:
Memories of pain during childbirth tied to intensity rather than length of labor

Childbirth is physically intense and, for many women, it is the most painful experience they will have. And yet, new research shows that the amount of time a woman spends in labor doesn't seem to impact how she remembers her labor pain afterwards.
EurekAlert also explains the theory underpinning the experiment:
The idea that we tend to remember an experience as a joint product of peak point and end point of the experience while ignoring all other parts is well known to researchers, dubbed the "peak-end bias," but it has primarily been tested in lab settings using relatively brief experiments. Thus, it remained unclear as to whether the peak-end bias would apply to real life events.
So, there you have it. A couple of psychologists found a clever way to test in a real-life situation a phenomenon that has frequently been observed in lab tests.

Say, how did the press pick this up, anyway?
Study says child birth pain not as painful as women claim
That's right, folks. The take-home for the (male?) junior staff writer whose (female?) editor handed him the science beat this week was: why bitches always gotsta be complainin', man?

Okay, junior staff writer. Let's see how else you can completely botch this.
The researchers then called the moms twice, two days after birth and again two months later... The results show the women rated the process less painful two days after their delivery than they did when the researchers asked them again two months later.

According to the researchers, they conclude that moms are likely to forget all the points during labor that aren't quite as painful and just focus on the moments that were the most painful.
PEOPLE. Not "moms." PEOPLE. If a dude gets kicked eight times and one of those times happens to be in the nuts, he'll probably remember the whole experience as pretty freakin' painful. You'd never tell him he was probably recalling it as worse than it was. Jesus. If you'll permit a moment of angry feminist ranting, this is pure patriarchal devaluing-the-experiences-of-women bullshit.

It's also, maybe, a case of an idiot being put in charge of science writing, because...
The reason for the study? To determine if an epidural is helpful for moms.

March 13, 2015

He Was A Featherweight

From the Glasgow Herald: Edinburgh Zoo urged to cancel "party" nights after Peta claims bird punched at similar event at another zoo
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) [has reassured] People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) there will be no "drunken atmosphere" at evenings at Edinburgh Zoo after claims similar night events at another zoo led to one visitor trying to pour beer over a tiger and another accidentally punching a bird.
I say if you're the sort of person who wants to pour beer over a tiger, you should go for it and reap what you sow. But punching a bird? That's a chickenshit move. The guy probably winged it afterwards, too.
A spokeswoman for the RZSS said the events attract people who may not normally visit a zoo who learn about endangered species and how to help.
At similar recent events at the London Zoo, one person reportedly tried to pour beer on a tiger, another allegedly attempted to undress and enter the enclosure that held penguins and another fell and 'accidentally' punched a bird, among other incidents... [But] London Zoo was reported as saying earlier that its "Zoo Lates" evenings were safe and that only three people had been removed from events in two years.
I wonder which three people, right?
Edinburgh Zoo said that alcohol will be available at its Zoo Nights which are to be held over four nights in the summer but that entertainers and bars are situated away from the animals.
Funny, because usually zoos put their animals behind the bars SPLABANGO!

March 06, 2015

Willy Jokes

From The Scotsman: Hidden in the Clinton painting
[In] an interview which the American portrait painter Nelson Shanks gave to the Philadelphia Daily News... he admitted to slipping a secret image into the portrait he painted for the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC of President Bill Clinton.

He said: “Clinton was hard."
I'll bet.

February 25, 2015

A Further Open Letter to Andrew Ladd

Dear Andrew Ladd,

Hi there. Sorry it's been a while. I've been pretty busy, I guess; I moved to London; I published my book in the U.K. (to some great reviews, incidentally); and I got shortlisted for the New York Public Library's Young Lions fiction award. If you'll pardon the hubris, it's been a pretty great year.

But anyway. I gather, as always, from my Google Alerts, that you've been busy too. You've signed some pucks. You've scored a lot of goals. You've been called for a lot of fouls. And last week, I notice, you visited a school to promote the Winnipeg Jets' children's book, The Home Team, as part of "I Love To Read Month."

Now look here, Andrew Ladd. Getting kids excited about reading is great. I'm on board with that. Kids who get excited about reading today are my meal ticket tomorrow. But dude, COME ON. It's already hard enough for me to get noticed as an author above the constant flood of news about you and your already very successful hockey career. (And now I have this jackass to contend with as well.)

So why did you have to go and start attaching yourself to books and plugging them in libraries, too? You don't catch me slapping pucks around the ice for the cameras, do you? That's your thing, and I respect you for it. So is it really too much to ask that you extend me the same courtesy?

I guess I wouldn't be so cheesed off about this, Andrew Ladd, if you hadn't so studiously ignored my book all these months. After I tried tweeting you about it, and I wrote you all these open letters, and then tweets about ME started accidentally showing up in sports website feeds about YOU, I figured you would have to be just a little bit interested. We may not have met, may never meet, and sharing a name may not mean all that much to either of us. But it's SOMETHING, right? It's a reason to at least say, hey, millions of people who hang on my every word and step, check out this book by this other Andrew Ladd. Maybe it doesn't suck.

When still I didn't hear a peep, though, I resigned myself to the thought that, okay, maybe he just care about books all that much. And now I find out that all this time you've been holding out on me? That you've got no qualms about promoting other people's books in public forums, and yet you can't even throw me one fricking bone?

Anyway, Andrew Ladd. It's still "I Love To Read Month," after all, so maybe it's not too late. Maybe now, just once, just a little, you can tell your adult fans to check out my book. And if not, well, shucks. I guess I'll just have to dig out those ice skates and come down to the MTS Centre after all, and see how YOU like it.

Yours, despite everything, in homonymery.

Andrew Ladd

February 13, 2015

Clooney Would Actually Make This Film, Too

From BBC News: Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed freed
Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed have left prison in Egypt following their release on bail.

They spent more than a year behind bars. On Thursday a court ordered their release pending a retrial this month.

They are accused of spreading false information and helping the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
In the film version of their story, Baher Mohamed will be played by George Clooney circa E.R.

The trial is due to resume later this month.

February 10, 2015

The Defense Calls Pepé Le Pew

From the New York Times: Strauss-Kahn Expected to Defend Legality of Lust at Trial
LILLE, France — Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund who is accused of participating in a global sex ring, was expected to testify on Tuesday to present a novel defense: There is nothing criminal about lust.
I believe the full argument he's presenting to the French court is: "Ma cherie, zere is nussing criminal about lust, hein?" And if you think I'm just unfairly stereotyping the French, here's an actual quote from Strauss-Kahn's lawyer, Henri Leclerc:
“I dare you to distinguish between a prostitute and a naked socialite.”
They used to say the same thing about Mitzy Goldfarb from East 73rd.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a high-flying former finance minister once seen as a leading contender for the French presidency, stands accused with 13 other defendants of pimping...

Mr. Strauss-Kahn has thus far been a stoic and elusive figure in the courtroom, arriving at the courthouse in a car with dark tinted windows.
Pro-tip, Dominique: if you're trying to convince people you're NOT a pimp, maybe ditch the car with tinted windows.
He has acknowledged being present at sex parties. But his defense team has said he played no part in organizing them and has insisted he was not aware that some of the women at the parties were prostitutes because they were all naked by the time he arrived...
Gee, officer! I just figured those gals musta been real hot!
[In more recent testimony] he said he might have been naïve about why the young women were there.
Annoyingly, the Times has been continuously updating the same page all day as the story has developed, so you can no longer find most of the excerpts I quote here in the link I provide above. (N.B. It is annoying that they are updating the same page rather than posting new iterations of the story on different pages. It is not annoying that they are continuing to practice journalism as new details emerge.) However, to prove I am not making this shit up, you can helpfully read all past versions of the story here.

And now, Dom, take us home. What's the Frenchest excuse you can come up with for all this?
Mr. Strauss-Kahn characterized the sex parties as libertinage, or freewheeling sex and pleasure among multiple and consensual partners, an age-old and legal practice in France dating from the 16th century.
He said that the festive nature of libertinage would have been sullied had he known that the women were being paid for sex.
"Bwuh, mais non! It would be like aving foie gras after being told ze geese were force fed! Quoi?"

The trial continues.

December 11, 2014

In Which The Author Appreciates Why Amazon Might Sometimes Be Not So Bad, or, Why British People Can't Go Anywhere

Two months ago I wrapped up Conversations With Greatness, which for the last two years has been pretty much the only regular content on this blog. The plan was to start putting the time I'd been spending on CWG into actually writing on the blog more frequently, but this hasn't happened because my timing was terrible; in November I drove up to Edinburgh for my second festival of the year here, Edinburgh's Christmas, and since then I have pretty much not had time to do anything except Edinburgh's Christmas. (Also, eat sausages. Because I also haven't had time to buy food most days, except from the German market stalls on site.)

Another thing I haven't had time to do since Edinburgh's Christmas started is go to the bookstore, to do a favour for a friend back in London who wants to give a signed copy of my book to someone for a Christmas gift. (Side note: this is probably the best idea for a Christmas gift you will come across this year. It's certainly the best one I've ever heard in my life.) Since he's still in London and I'm in Edinburgh, it seemed like the easiest thing to do would be for me to buy one here to sign and send, and get reimbursed later. So today, two weeks after promising to do so, off I went to the Waterstones on Princes Street.

I picked this Waterstones specifically, because my book was listed as in stock on their website, so I figured I wouldn't have to awkwardly ask someone if they had my own book. (As an added element of shame, Alexander McCall Smith was just leaving when I got there, having spent the evening signing copies of his book that OTHER PEOPLE were buying.) But when I went searching for my book it was neither in the Scottish Fiction section where it has previously been shelved in this store (because I've checked, because I have a sad authorly existence), nor was it in the general fiction section. So there went my ingenious plan...
ME: This is embarrassing, but... I need to buy a copy of my own book, and I can't find it.


ME [wondering what sort of tone adequately expresses "I don't expect you to know my name"]: Andrew Ladd.

KSBC: Okay... [taps at keyboard; frowns] What Ends, is it?

ME: That's the one.

KSBC: Is it... Scottish Fiction?

ME: Yes, but I checked there already and couldn't find it.

KSBC: Well, you should probably look upstairs in general fiction then. I expect it's been mis-shelved.

ME [knowing full well that it is not in general fiction, because I have already checked there too, but not wanting KSBC to feel unhelpful]: Oh, okay. Thank you.
I then went upstairs and pretended to check in general fiction again, considered asking another clerk but suddenly realised I didn't want to be the guy in the bookstore telling every employee I was an author, and finally returned downstairs to check the Scottish fiction section again, causing KSBC to cast a concerned glance in my direction from the till. After another few seconds exaggeratedly looking at the shelves for his benefit, I walked back over to him.
KSBC: Still no luck?

ME: No. Sorry.

KSBC [motioning to the clerk beside him]: Well, if you wait a second and ask my colleague, he'll probably be able to help. He's in charge of the Scottish Fiction section.

...a few moments pass...
GUY IN CHARGE OF SCOTTISH FICTION SECTION: So what was it you were looking for?

ME [now more self-conscious than ever about being the guy mentioning he's an author to every bookstore employee he sees]: It's, uh... What Ends. The book is called What Ends.

GICOSFS: Is there a question mark after that?

ME: No.

GICOSFS: Hmm. It says it's in stock. I know I've seen it. Weird.

ME [now regretting not telling him I'm the author in case KSBC has already mentioned it]: [nervous chuckle]

GICOSFS: Oh, hang on. It says it's in stock because it just came in this morning. I'll have to go get it from the back.
GICOSFS proceeded to disappear for what was probably five minutes but felt like fifteen. At one point I saw him leave the back room he had gone into and disappear into an elevator. I didn't even know this bookstore had an elevator. It was taking him so long I was really starting to regret not telling him I was the author, because if he thought I was just a normal customer this was probably no big deal, but if KSBC had mentioned it then GICOSFS was probably thinking, Jesus, who is this jackass who's sending me on a wild goose chase ten minutes before closing time to find him a copy of his own goddamn book, and won't even own up to it?

At last he reappeared clutching a copy of my book, and took me back to the till to pay. By this point I was kind of hoping that when I handed over my card he would notice my name and we could have a good laugh about it, so that I wouldn't leave with him still thinking I was jackass (or, worse, with me wondering if he thought I was a jackass)—but in the end he barely even looked at it. Then he gave me two extra stamps on my loyalty card, which he said was for "being so patient," and I was on my way.

Anyway, if you're reading, Guy In Charge Of Scottish Fiction Section at the Waterstones West End in Edinburgh: sorry if you thought I was a jackass. And thank you for being so helpful.