Saturday, November 28, 2009

What will it take? Is this a first glimmer of hope?

Nationwide for 2007, according to the latest federal data, infant mortality was 6 per 1,000 for whites and 13 for blacks.

This NY Times article talks about what's happening in the county which includes Madison, Wisconsin, because the infant mortality rate there for Blacks has fallen dramatically.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Map Quiz - What's it Mean?

Good Morning. Here's a quiz I got none right on. I was almost right on one, and sort of right on a few. You're given 20 maps, and asked to figure out what they're about. (On #'s 5, 9 and 21, guess the date.) The answer links go to the original showing of the map on the web and the answer you seek isn't always obvious. (On the map that referred to papal visits, I had to click around quite a bit.)

Here's a few more hints, so you can maybe get something right: My brother Dave's state, Minnesota, figures prominently in one question (joined with Washington DC, I believe). It's a political question. There's a different sort of political question I was happy to see included, since it's something that might matter personally someday. By the time it might matter to me, the map is likely to be out of date. Looking for countries that were once part of the British Empire is relevant on a few questions, but you'll still need to figure out what it means.

I had fun, and learned a bit. What do you think? (Please let me know if you get any right.)

(Found on Flowing Data.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


pretty leaves, cute jokes

Rethink Afghanistan

On the anti-smoking movement being classist:

Joe Bageant starts by quoting (at length) another Joe...
And, in the employment section of the want ads, more and more businesses and government agencies declare that "users" of tobacco, in any form, need not apply: "Urine and blood samples will be taken when we accept your application."

Generally, this war is described as a battle against big tobacco, but, of course, it's actually a war on working people, their habits, their little idiot joys, their little mechanisms of coping.

Then he writes about his own struggle to quit, along with much commentary about folks on the left being way too judgmental of working class folks who they seem to see as beneath them...
Yes, I think the anti-smoking movement is becoming a mass social control program. But not in the ways I sense you see things. I don't believe any grand wizard or corporate cabal cooked it up behind the curtain (although they certainly capitalize on it). Not directly anyway. I believe it just came down the pike wearing opportunity's hat. In America one man's misery has always been another's opportunity to make a buck. We are not good at "the common good."

Personally, I hate cigarette smoke. But I know how hard it is to quit. I've watched a colleague try, over and over.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fun with iMacs

So there's the built-in camera, and I had to call the store to find out what software would take photos with it - it's called photo booth. Here I am...

Now I guess I'll have to explore the files and see what other goodies are buried in this machine.

We've just watched another instant movie - Little Women.

The wireless hub is working, and so are the scanner and copier on my old printer. Lotsa fun...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lost my internet, But now I'm back

17 days ago, I clicked on 'update software' and it trashed my computer. I'm on a Mac and was unpleasantly surprised. I called their tech support, and they started to tell me I didn't have a maintenance contract. When I said "It's Apple's fault!", they ended up helping me, for hours, ... and sent a new OS disk to reinstall that. But nothing helped, and one of their hypotheses was that my hard drive was too full. (55gig hard drive had 9 gig left.)

So I resigned myself to buying a new computer. I now have an iMac, and am hoping I'll keep loving it. I chose the smaller screen (21.5" vs 27"), and it's huge! Right now it's too big, but I think I can get used to it. ;^) The store (M.A.C. on Shattuck, in Berkeley) couldn't reduce the price any, but threw in labor to help me with getting everything working.

My old printer, which stopped working when I 'upgraded' to 10.5 (so my externat hard drives would work) now works again, so I can scan stuff in and print in color. My new laser printer is cheaper on ink, so I'll still use that mostly, but I'm thrilled to be able to scan again.

They're trying to fix my laptop, but still haven't figured out what's wrong. I figured getting all my stuff off the hard drive would help isolate the trouble. We'll see...

I can now watch movies instantly from Netflix. (Unexpected bonus, yeay!) My son and I watched The Nightmare Before Christmas, half last night, the rest this morning.

I love the scrolling on the new "magic mouse".

This new machine will need to live in my bedroom, so I'll need to have wireless. (Cheaper and easier to install than added DSL line, I'm assuming.) That will happen in the next few days. If my laptop gets fixed, that will mean I can work outside.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What Obama Does Right

I want him to have a clearer understanding of what's needed in education. I want him to get out of the wars our country is waging in Iraq and Afghanistan. I want him to stop foreclosures instead handing billions (or was it more?) to banks. He says we need to push him, and I will try to do that.

Meanwhile, I never would have imagined this speech, given at a Human Rights Campaign event. He talks about having met with Matthew Shepard's mom in the Oval Office. He talks about honoring same-sex relationships equally with those between a man and a woman. (Does that mean he will support same-sex marriage, or will he try to find some other, lesser, way to honor our relationships? He is definitely avoiding the word 'marriage'.)

"We are ending the discriminatory ban on entering the U.S. based on HIV status."

"I've required all agencies in the federal government to extend as many federal benefits as possible to lgbt families as the current law allows."

"...That's why it's so important that you continue to speak out, that you continue to set an example, that you continue to pressure leaders, including me, to make the case all across America."

The friend who passed this on to me said it made her cry. Through most of it, I wasn't quite that moved. But 21 minutes in, he told the story of Jeanne Manford, the mom of a gay man, who founded PFLAG. His one funny moment was imitating the policeman who had called her in the middle of the night, in the 60's, to tell her her son had been arrested. He said, "...and you know, he's homosexual." (Obama drawled this out a bit, so cutely.) She said, "Yes, I know. Why are you bothering him?" PFLAG always moves me to tears. Hearing President Obama talk about them is a special moment.

It is such a relief to have an intelligent, well-spoken president. I can only hope his position on other issues will get as close as this to what we need.

A message from the mayor of Richmond on the gang rape

I'm on a mailing list for these messages. This is from Gayle McLaughlin, the mayor of Richmond:

It has been a very difficult past week in Richmond. Many of you are aware of the horrific rape and assault of the young woman, 15 years old, at Richmond High School.

We, in the City of Richmond, extend our full support to the young woman and her family. We know that recovery (physical, mental, and emotional) will be a long process.

Throughout last week, I was interviewed by many reporters and shared my outrage and pain over this horrendous crime. This incident is deeply troubling and our police department is fully engaged in making arrests and conducting a thorough investigation.

Although this horrible incident occurred in Richmond, there is no doubt that this incident is symptomatic of a much larger problem. While the national media has chosen to cast disparaging light on the City of Richmond, this incident is not about Richmond. It is about violence to women, experienced daily throughout America. Every nine seconds in the US a woman is sexually violated.

Hostility and violence against women is based on social injustice propped up by advertising and commercial interests that choose to portray women as sexualized objects, passive and dehumanized, apart from real human relationships.

A Richmond High teacher rightly said that this is a “teachable moment,” and it is a teachable moment that must extend beyond the moment and sink deep into our national consciousness. Sexism, along with racism, poverty, and all forms of social decay continue to exist in our nation because we have not put all forces to bear into opposing them.

This deeply troubling incident in Richmond is indeed a time for reflection. It is time to reflect more deeply on the injustices that are allowed to fester in our society. Every one of us has the responsibility to critically analyze the root causes of social ills. Why did some among our youth stand by in the face of this heinous crime? Yes, there is something wrong here, but it doesn’t originate in our youth and it doesn’t originate in Richmond. The status quo culture throughout our nation does not encourage youth to stand up for justice. Nor does it encourage youth to speak truth to power. We see young people too often being shaped, molded and told to "fit in" to this unjust society without questioning its persistent flaws. When we call upon on our youth to not stand by passively in the face of a crime, we must call upon ourselves to not stand by as our youth come of age in a world filled with problems, and instead encourage them in the strongest way possible to stand up for something better.

And the media must be called upon as well. They must be called upon to look deeper at the issues they cover. Shockingly, I was told by a prominent Bay Area TV News reporter when she questioned me about this horrendous act of violence in Richmond that she “didn’t want to hear about social injustice.” Well, the problem should not be separated from the cause, and, in my view, the media has a responsibility to explain Richmond’s issues in the context of our overall systemic problems. News stories leave a profound impact upon our youth. In Richmond you will find the brightest and most empathetic youth as you will find anywhere. Many have overcome huge challenges in their young lives already. They are refusing to take on the image that the press too often places on Richmond youth and our community as a whole.

In response to this rape, I participated in a very moving press conference organized by youth groups at Richmond High this past Thursday. Check out the strong voices of our youth, their teachers, and adult allies at Richmond High School here (scroll down on the page to the video): Community rallies...

Another activity, a Peace Rally, will be held in front of Richmond High on Nov. 7 at 11 a.m. to continue to extend support and raise awareness.

Richmond High is accepting cards and donations for the young rape victim and her family. Checks should be made out to the Richmond High Student Fund. The checks and cards should be sent directly to the school at 1250 23rd St., Richmond, CA 94804-1011


Gayle McLaughlin
City of Richmond

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I love history! or, Textbooks are evil...

On my other blog, Math Mama Writes, I often consider the ways in which school impedes our learning of math. Of course that happens in other subject areas too. Until I got to college, I loved math too much for school to come between us. For me, it was history that suffered the most from what school does to destroy the joy of learning.

In high school I hated 'History', which to me meant history classes, with their horrible, sleep-inducing history textbooks, full of presidents, wars, and stupid dates I was supposed to memorize. Luckily, the women's movement entered my life during my senior year, and when I began college I took as many women's studies courses as I could. 'Theories of Feminism' was taught by a history prof, and I suddenly found out that I loved history. Reading original sources while learning about something that mattered to me made this sort of history delightful. (Thank you, Robin Jacoby!) I even managed to remember a date or two. (The Seneca Falls Women's Conference was held in 1848. At that time, the vote for women was considered one of the more radical demands. Women got the vote in 1920.)

Those high school classes left their mark, though, and I've never wanted to study history in a more general way. So when I read Frances Fitzgerald's America Revised in the early 80s (in my 20s), about how bad high school history textbooks are (and why), it impressed me enough that I remember it still. (I've just ordered a copy from PaperBackSwap.) I don't remember much, but basically, she discussed how committees take anything 'controversial' out of textbooks, and what they leave is the rah-rah patriotic stuff. It's not real history at all.

My favorite books on more broad-based U.S. history are A People's History of the U.S., by Howard Zinn, and Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen. My favorite way in general to learn history is through historical fiction. That probably leaves me with some amusing misconceptions.

I got started on this train of thought when I saw the post at BBC News Magazine on "The map that changed the world". It was created in 1507, and was the first known map to include the Americas. 1000 copies were made of it, but by 1570 it had disappeared from view. One copy was discovered in 1901, and in 2003 the U.S. Library of Congress bought that copy for $10 million. Fascinating piece. The comments include an interesting discussion of where the name America comes from.

Maps are not usually my thing, but I liked this.