Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If feminism killed chivalry, then chivalry kills common courtesy

An argument that those who pine for the days of unrepentant misogyny are fond of repeating is the idea that gender equality has eroded traditional ideas of chivalry that actually benefit women, e.g. holding the door and letting women go first, etcetera. I don't expect that any readers of this blog will harbor sympathy for that argument, so I won't spend time pointing out the flaws.

I do want to make an observation, though, in regards to the way the lack of gender symmetry in these traditional "chivalrous" ideals can wind up making people just plain rude. Now, I have to be careful here, because I'm making a little bit of a generalization based on anecdotal observation, so just keep in mind that I don't mean this as absolute, and it's quite possible I'm just wrong on this one. With that in mind, here we go...

If someone is five steps in front of me, it is their call if they want to hold the door. I usually will hold the door for people in that circumstance, but if I'm in a hurry I might just pretend I don't see them. When someone is that far behind, it requires one to stop and wait, and while it's certainly courteous to do so, I don't think it's compulsory. But if somebody is just one or two steps behind you, it just seems like basic common decency to, if not actually hold the door for the next person, at least give it a little shove so they can catch it as they reach the doorway, rather than making them lean in to open it again after you just opened it a second and a half ago.

And yet, every now and then, someone who clearly knew I was there (this morning I even made eye contact with the person as we were approaching the door from different directions) just lets the door close immediately behind their ass -- something I find pretty rude. It's a dis. An unnecessary door-in-the-face, that the person could have prevented with a little push.

And here comes the dangerous generalization: It seems to me, in my experience, that the people most likely to do this are older women. Sometimes a younger woman will do it, and I've even had a man do it to me on a few occasions. But I suspect this has something to do with this outdated notion of "chivalry". I suspect that, to some women, men hold the door for them, but they do not hold the door for men.

Like I say, that's fine if the person is five steps behind you. But to not even give the door a "push" so someone a step behind you can catch it? Please. That's so fucking rude. And I blame chivalry for it. Screw that.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

David Barton's tiny camels

I'm well aware of the bizarre argument circulating among conservative evangelicals that the New Testament somehow preaches the merits of a free market economy. I continually fail to wrap my head around the double-think that allows people to think that an utter commie pinko like the Biblical Jesus was railing against socialism -- he tells people to sell everything they own and donate it to a centralized pool, for chissakes! But in the New York Times magazine's piece on Christian revisionism in history textbooks, David Barton takes this craziness to a whole new level:

[Barton] is a controversial figure who has argued that the U.S. income tax and the capital-gains tax should be abolished because they violate Scripture (for the Bible says, in Barton’s reading, “the more profit you make the more you are rewarded”)...

What the fuck?!?!? Where exactly does it say that? I'm just flabbergasted... The Bible actually says exactly the opposite, that the more profit you make then the harder it is to get the eternal carrot they are always promising.

I know some liberal Christians who believe that the Bible tells them to be charitable, that it condemns greed and profit-seeking, and use this as a basis to justify their political and moral stance. While this still requires a bit of double-think to ignore the despicable parts of the Bible, this position is at least consistent with most of the things the Biblical Jesus said in the New Testament. (I recognize it is not difficult to find the Big J saying some pretty horrible things too, but it is undeniable that the New Testament is pretty consistent on the "be nice to the poor" theme) I think these folks already have a pretty good sense of right and wrong, and their faith is superfluous at best... but I at least can understand how someone could think the way they do.

Folks like Barton... I just don't get it. Blows my freakin' mind.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Math challenge

I'm proud to say I came up with this one myself:

Consider an experiment where I continuously flip a coin until I get ten heads in a row, after which I terminate the experiment. Let X be the number of times I end up flipping the coin before this sequence of ten heads begins. What is the most likely value of X?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

XKCD "tells both sides"

Now this is what responsible journalism should look like!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Why do people vote against their own interests?

I totally forgot what it was that I had planned to write about populism, but in any case, the BBC has a very depressing article saying it much better than I ever could. This part makes me feel ill:

It's like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy.

If that doesn't say it all, then the nauseating picture accompanying that article certainly does.