The Bog of Lost Scholars

February 25, 2004

Autism Quotient Quiz

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 6:35 pm

I scored 29 on the Autism Quotient Quiz, just shy of the range where most autistics tend to score (32+).

I really need to track down Simon Baron-Cohen’s writings; while his work is way too easy for hardcore sociobiologists to twist out of shape, I do think he’s onto something with the systematizing vs. empathising intelligences.

(I find hardcore sociobiology adherents really annoying. “All men really ARE hardwired like X, and all women really ARE hardwired like Y…um, or is that the other way around?” Yeah, right. As is the case with most sociobiological ideas, I have no problem with the idea that men and women TEND to have different brainwiring, but I strenuously object to blanket “all men are this, all women that” formulations. By the way, when I take the SQ/EQ quiz, I test out pretty solidly on the systemizing side — in other words, I have a male brain. Take that, you hardcore sociobiology weenienappers….)

February 17, 2004

Processing Coworker Death

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 8:17 pm

Heidi worked at the Press for eight years. I didn’t know her very well; she was very quiet, very reserved. Not talkative even with the other designers. But I know she was a fabulous book designer. And she tried so damn hard, sometimes, to join in the humor at our launch meetings, even though you could tell that she didn’t quite get it — or, perhaps, was so burdened even then that she couldn’t quite laugh.

In late January, she abruptly told her boss that she was quitting and would leave sometime in February. I ran into her in the hall after the announcement and told her that I was sorry she was leaving; she looked so distressed when she thanked me that I wondered if I’d sounded snarky or insincere. In retrospect….

And then she didn’t come in last Monday. And then they found her.

I’m still processing it. Half my brain seems to treat it as if she’d left for a better job rather than the Great Beyond. The other half…is not going to wig out, the first time I go into the Press on a Saturday and realize that Heidi won’t be at her desk working, but it’ll be damn empty here.

If any deity worth serving exists, They will say to her, “Depression is a life-threatening illness, and you battled it heroically for years before you fell. Here is a seat at Our high table, decorated with all the beauty you created in life. Hail, and welcome.”

February 10, 2004

Fun with Bureaucracy

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 1:35 pm

Texas is moving its child support collection & distribution services from the county level to the state level, apparently due to new federal regulations. (Where have all the small-government federalist Republicans gone, long time passing….)

Now, I’d have figured that the logical way to do this would be for the counties to just dump the county records up to the Attorney General’s office, but no. I had to go to the county Domestic Relations office and get a certified list of my ex’s payments (fortunately that was free), have a form notarized saying that the amount of required payments my ex made that didn’t go through the county offices was $0 (why do they need an official, NOTARIZED form to say “look, it’s all going through the county, really!), and make a copy of the divorce decree.

They supplied a business reply envelope, but really, a 23-page copy of a divorce decree is not going to fit in a #9 envelope. So I just dropped the forms directly at the AG’s Child Support Division office.

Did the State of Texas intentionally put the Child Support Division in the same building as the Parole Division?

I swear, that has got to be the scariest government office visit I’ve ever made. The INS offices in San Antonio are cheerful havens by comparison.

But the lady at the desk was pleasant, and clearly knew what to check for on the paperwork to make sure I had everything correct. So that task’s done. Rather a pain in the neck, for $75/month….

February 4, 2004

Unsatisfying Reproductive Argument

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 6:15 pm

Occasionally I run across the argument, “It’s better to have men as soldiers than women, because a man can sire a lot more babies than a woman can bear. If you have a war and kill off 90% of your young men, you can still get a full crop of babies for the next generation, but if you kill off 90% of your young women, you lose 90% of your next generation.”

I find this line of reasoning rather unsatisfying.

Ignoring the minor fact that if the war’s on your home turf, you could end up with lots of your young women dead whether they’re soldiers or civilians…. From a strictly biological viewpoint, the argument is true. One man + ten women = ten babies; ten men + one woman = one baby.

Now, in a society where the ideal is monogamy, tell me how we’re going to get that one man to sire babies on ten different women without a major breakdown in family and social networks.

Heck, we already know what that looks like. I’m reminded of a bit from Turner and Ehlers’s Sugar’s Life in the Hood where one of them points out that in the community where Turner lives, there is a high women:men ratio (5-10 women to one man; can’t remember the exact number), due to many men being in prison or otherwise unavailable as mates. The result, in that co-author’s opinion, is that a man in that community has no incentive to be a “good” man — really financially support his family beyond the occasional $50 supplement, be present for his kids, stay off booze and drugs, be faithful to his partner — because if his current woman doesn’t like his behavior, there’s someone else who’ll put up with it for the sake of having a man in her life and for the small financial benefit. And so you have the vicious cycle continuing: boys grow up thinking that’s the way to be a man; girls grow up thinking that they can’t expect men to act like adults.

So if you kill off 90% of your young men, either:

  1. the ideal of the lifelong monogamous marriage goes kerflop, along with all the social structures based on that ideal; you may have a fully populated next generation, but you’ve lost important parts of your society and culture,
  2. or you keep the ideal, you end up with a lot of unmarried women (cf. late 19th century U.S.)…and your next generation is still small, because 90% of the women aren’t reproducing. You might as well have let the women enlist alongside the men.

(Hmm. I really need to go track down some social histories of the UK and Europe after WWI. Certainly those countries lost large numbers of young men in the trenches, and I don’t have a clue what happened to the population in the following years.)

December 5, 2003


Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 1:30 pm

It’s time to admit it: at best, I’m lower middle class.

Okay, by income I’m not that far below the U.S. median, especially given that I only have to support two people on it (although then again, I’m in a somewhat pricier city). But visiting church members’ houses and seeing pictures of friends’ and relatives’ houses, I’m definitely dropping from my more upper-middle-class upbringing.

It’s not just the income, either; my attitudes are starting to shift. For example, my maternal grandparents scraped and saved to put all four of their kids through college in an era when most people didn’t go, and they were proud of it; my parents pretty much expected all us kids to go as well, and we did. I’m not expecting my son to go. Okay, yes, this is in large part because though three months from his fifth birthday, he can’t talk and he still wears diapers. But even if he makes dramatic progress later and ends up a relatively normal eighteen-year-old, I’d be just as happy for him to learn a trade or join the military rather than go to college, at least right out of high school. College is a wonderful thing, especially in the people you interact with. But if he’s going to have to major in something potentially high-paying just to be able to justify the loans, as far as I’m concerned he might as well just become a plumber and read Derrida for amusement in his spare time.

On the other hand, I do have the pathological allergy to debt, which I’m not sure is working-class (then again, I’m not sure it’s middle-class either, these days). I probably own a bigger percentage of my house than several friends with higher incomes and larger houses. I don’t mind so much having ugly hallway carpet and grungy secondhand furniture when I remember that my spare cash is going towards getting me out of debt — it won’t happen before I’m forty, barring a very successful publication or a stunning job offer, but by forty-five might be feasible.

Still. I don’t care about enough of the stuff that my officemate, trying to live an upper-middle-class life, has to care about. I don’t have the money to attempt that lifestyle, and I’m not sufficiently interested in enough of the trappings to try, and that’s all there is to it.

September 8, 2003

Wild Hobbit Dreams

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 12:00 pm

(With that title, you’d expect a racier post, wouldn’t you?)

Every parent likes to imagine things they’ll do with their child when the kid is old enough for whatever it is — teaching the kid to play baseball or piano; taking them to see the Nutcracker for the first time, etc. Mine was introducing my son to a great classic of English literature: on his fifth birthday, I planned to celebrate the milestone by beginning to read him The Hobbit.

Autism/PDD requires the parent to adjust their dreams rather a lot. Now my dream is of the day when he finally realizes why adults keep making him sit on the toilet, and my wild fantasy is that one day he will speak or write a clear sentence.

Still, I’m thinking about it. Yes, he’s not going to be that interested; his language comprehension skills are still on the level of “more sippy?”, and just getting him to sit still long enough for any reading will be a challenge; he certainly won’t do it for board books. To be honest, it’s probably a pointless endeavor.

But damn it, ever since I decided to have children, I’ve wanted to start reading them The Hobbit on their fifth birthdays. Come February, I just might do it anyway. I may have an autistic son, but I can still raise my middle finger against the forces of chaos.

August 20, 2003

Happy Birthday J.D.!

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 7:08 pm

Today’s the birthday of my good bud from middle school and first writing critic, J.D. May her cats be happy, her cases entertaining, and her cactus ever healthy.

June 11, 2003


Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 4:51 pm

Reading this article about planned deportations of numerous Muslim male immigrants, I’m struck by the number of people who say “well, they weren’t 100% legal, so they shouldn’t be here!”

Granted. But there’s a helluva lot of immigrants from other countries and other faiths who aren’t 100% legal either. Why are we focusing on Muslim males? (11 with any terrorist connections, out of 13,000? Ever considered the possibility that 0.085% of other immigrant groups might have connections with groups harmful to the U.S.?)

Of course, I’m biased. I’ve had to deal with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The Internal Revenue Service is at least two orders of magnitude friendlier, more helpful, and generally easier to work with.

There’s “illegally in the country” as in “you blatantly sneaked over the borders without filling out proper paperwork”. And then there’s “illegally in the country” as in “you’ve been filling out all the forms and trying to do everything properly, but the INS got delayed or screwed something up, and every time you called you waited on hold for 45 minutes and then still couldn’t find out anything about your application, or you had to take a day off work and drive 200 miles and wait in line for three hours and still not get any information….”

I’m fine with booting people who tried to avoid the system. I’m not fine with booting people who are trying to play by the rules, and can’t because the INS is understaffed and runs way behind on processing people.

(Of course, I’m also biased because living in Texas, I’m at far great risk of being a victim of terrorism by white American Christian males than by any-origin Muslim males.)

May 16, 2003

Yet Another Daycare Study

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 2:58 pm

A British study suggests that children turn out fine whether they go to daycare or are cared for by their stay-at-home moms. What I found particularly interesting in this report was that in families where the mother works more outside the home, the fathers spend more time with the kids.

So if Mom works, the child gets more Dad time? Nice side effect!

May 6, 2003

The Cost of Raising Children

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 2:37 pm

After reading one of Jane Doe’s Escribitionist entries on her decision to stay childfree, and reading the article she’d linked to, I was suddenly moved to calculate how much my son’s daycare has cost me so far.

I don’t have all the numbers to hand, but my low-end estimate is over $20,000.

Ouch! I could have paid off almost half my mortgage with that!

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