Saturday 26 August 2017

For anyone who's interested...

Here's the basic plan for the yard.

To parse it, we're on a corner lot, subdivided, with no access to the back alley. Our only parking is out on the street, in front of the sidewalk. You can park along the south side (to the right in the drawing), but only if you're prepared to have an average of 2 vehicles totalled every 5 years due to thru traffic from the bar down the road.

The two trees at the top right corner shade the backyard almost entirely, and the side yard to the left of the house is permanently shaded. We've decided to install a patio throughout. No grass at all. We'll be putting in a shed where we can fit it (the side yard is almost 10 feet wide so we might stick two small sheds along the fence there).

Back and side yards will have a 6 foot privacy fence. Front yard will have a 4 foot fence that the dog won't be able to jump. A gate will connect the front yard to the back on the left front of the house, but we'll be able to seal front and back off when we want.

We'll be putting in a parking pad to the south (right). This is ideal, since that's the side of the house with flooding problems during heavy rain (we have a crack in the foundation at the corner of my sons' bedroom window). Concrete sloped away from the house will deal with that problem. Two birds, one stone.

Walkways from the back and the parking pad to the front door and then down to the sidewalk will be 3 feet wide (wheelchair accessible). We've yet to decide whether we'll do poured concrete or pavers for those. Either way, they'll probably wait until next spring.

The contractor is grading the property, and will install a base of crush to prep for pavers/concrete everywhere we want them. He's ripping out the old fence and will sink 4x6 posts for a new wooden privacy fence. We'll construct the fence from there and install the pavers ourselves, and we may pour/finish the concrete as well. Almost all of this will have to happen in the spring.

We'll put in a raised flower bed against the front of the house on the right side in front of the living room window and will probably replace the front porch (which was built by vagabonds) next year.

I'll cut the rain barrels in half and convert them into planters for herbs, tomatoes and possibly mosquito repellent plants to place on the patio. The wood piled in the corner of the yard will be aged perfectly for a fire bowl once everything is done and ready to use. By the time the backyard is done, it will be a "second living room".

Front yard will be grass turf and "dog territory". I have a patch of very nice looking, steppable, tiny purple flowers with small, scalloped leaves that I may harvest before they are demolished to augment the lawn.

Anyway, that's the basic plan for now. It will essentially take our house from the one bringing everyone's property values down to adding 3X the value to our property than we'll spend. And we'll be able to use our barbecue! And maybe enjoy the outdoors without sinking in mud or being eaten alive by mosquitoes living in unmowable grass and weeds growing on soggy, uneven ground that you can't push a lawn mower over.

And eventually, we'll be able to let our dog out just by opening the door, rather than by putting her on a leash and taking her outside.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Rex Huppke, the One White Male to Rule Them All.

I am annoyed. The Chicago Tribune put out an opinion piece on August 11 by Rex Huppke that I just stumbled across today. I wanted to respond and went through the process of signing up and in and writing out a response, and then hit publish only to find out that only paid subscribers are permitted to comment on articles. Tribune, why would you lead people to believe they can comment, and go to the trouble of writing a comment, only to tell them at the last stage that they have to pay for your bullshit rag in order to publish their comment?

Anyway, I don't like to invest time in nothing, so I decided to respond to the entire article here. The article is reproduced in full, minus any hyperlinks, and appears in the quote boxes. 

Google bro's diversity memo shows biological failings of white dudes

I've reached a very important conclusion about white men, and I'll get to that soon enough, but first, please repeat after me: Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.

Is your conclusion that white men are perfectly happy throwing other white men under the bus for the sake of mindless virtue signalling? I'm guessing not. 

Anyway, as for freedom from consequences, I’m sure that your tune would change if Damore was a woman who had tweeted or written something that angered a bunch of people who then piled on her on social media demanding she be fired. You wouldn't be lecturing her that her speech is not free from consequences. You'd be saying we need to do something about the culture of abuse and harassment online. 

Say it again. And again. And if you're one of those aggrieved white guys out there harboring the odd misconception that your voice is being unfairly stifled by "political correctness," say it 15 more times, because it just doesn't seem like this concept has sunk in.

If you’re one of those aggrieved feminists out there harboring the odd misconception that your voice is being unfairly stifled by people who disagree with you, or who tell you you suck, or who call you a feminazi, saying it 15 more times. Until you stop having the urge to testify in front of the UN’s Broadband Commission because people who say you suck are silencing you and should be themselves silenced. At least you haven’t been fired, yo. You can keep spouting your unsubstantiated bullshit and all you have to worry about is angry comments full of mean words. 

Consider this week's firing of a white, male Google employee who published a 10-page memo about diversity on an internal company forum. The software engineer used 3,000-or-so wholly unnecessary words to claim that there are fewer women in the tech industry because of "biological causes" and that diversity programs "increase race and gender tensions.”

Why is his whiteness and maleness an issue? Shouldn’t his assertions and arguments be the issue?

who published a 10-page memo about diversity on an internal company forum. The software engineer used 3,000-or-so wholly unnecessary words to claim that there are fewer women in the tech industry because of "biological causes" and that diversity programs "increase race and gender tensions.”

Those words should have been unnecessary, because they essentially replicate the findings of the psychological, neuro and evolutionary science communities and therefore should be common knowledge. Those words should have been unnecessary because they are supported by the evidence. Quillette has a post up with four scientists' responses to the memo, and none of these scientists contradict the bulk of what was presented in the memo. 

In fact, none of Damore's assertions on sex differences are considered controversial in the scientific community. There is some debate as to how large the differences are, and relevant they may be in particular contexts, but no serious debate as to whether or not they exist. 

I myself am very familiar with the work Damore was drawing on, both in terms of sex differences and in terms of the social/moral psychology involved when a given belief or worldview is politicized or moralized and therefore becomes "unquestionable". 

The memo is riddled with sexist stereotypes poorly supported by scientific references that are, at best, dodgy. 

Your Masters in Journalism makes you scientifically literate enough to judge the references used, their chosen instrument/methodology, their detection of and compensation for potential confounds and biases, weighting, replicability, statistical rigor, effect sizes, etc? 

You’re intimately acquainted with the publications this research has been published in, such as the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” or the “British Journal of Guidance and Counselling” or the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” or the “Association for Psychological Science” or the “European Journal of Endocrinology” or the “British Journal of Psychology”? 

I’m guessing you know better than all of the highly educated people who performed and reviewed the research prior to publication. Because journalism is the epitome of scientific literacy. 

You don’t get to just say the research is dodgy. Well, I guess you can just say it, but that doesn’t make it true. 

The only studies I’ve seen that contradict these findings with any sort of attempt at rigor are so methodologically flawed that the methodology was found to have been designed to intentionally avoid detecting sex differences. Such as feminist Daphna Joel’s study that found male and female brains are “a myth” because it was impossible to “type” brains by examination of their structures with a high enough degree of certainty (despite experts being able to accurately sex MRI scans of brains 70-80% of the time—the other 20-30% being the wrong answers and the “I’m not sures” lumped together). 

Researchers criticizing her work fed the morphological facial features of individuals of three species of monkey into her exact methodology, and could only accurately identify the species a given individual 1 to 5% of the time. 
Despite this, Joel's work was widely reported in mainstream media as confirmation that brains are not male- or female-typed, and therefore essentially indistinguishable. Joel has since gone on record in public expressing her astonishment that anyone would be interested in finding and quantifying sex differences, declaring the entire subject "uninteresting", and suggesting that the only reason anyone would look for such differences is to justify discrimination. 

That there are dimensions of human personality and behavior where sex differences are small, or where there is a lot of overlap, does not negate the fact that on a few key metrics men and women tend to be very, very different, and that these differences can and often do influence their preferences and decisions.

And it contains repeated statements that the author is all for diversity, is not sexist and eschews stereotypes — statements proven false by the aforementioned poorly supported sexist stereotypes. 

Well, that would depend on how poorly supported those particular stereotypes are. And they happen to be very well supported across large populations of men and women, and well documented in the literature.

Does this mean that we should discriminate against any individual based on them, at least in terms of employment opportunities? No. And Damore was not arguing that Google should do that, either. He was arguing that Google should be a meritocracy where all individuals are evaluated on things other than their gender, race or other similarly trivial or irrelevant characteristics. 

The reason it’s important to discuss these biological differences is to help us determine whether we are living in a just society that does NOT discriminate. He is quite correct that some of these biological differences will affect people’s interests, preferences and choices as far as occupation and career trajectory.

And here’s an interesting thing, Rex. There’s substantial evidence that it’s not a lack of math ability that keeps women out of tech so much as a surplus of verbal ability. 

A 2013 longitudinal study published in “Psychological Science” found that regardless of sex, individuals with both the high math ability required for STEM AND high verbal ability were significantly less likely to choose STEM careers than individuals who were only high in math ability. Women with high ability in both areas outnumbered men by 70%. Males were more than twice as likely to have only high math ability than females were. When controlled for the correlation of this pattern and the differences in verbal ability in male and female individuals with high math ability, the gender effect was significantly diminished. 

So basically, when men and women can math good AND can talk and write good, they’re more likely to choose careers other than STEM. (Oh, and just FYI, slower verbal development is correlated with prenatal testosterone, though I do think there are things we can do in schools to help boys learn to talk and write as good as girls, such as providing a greater variety of reading assigments.)

The engineer is 28-year-old James Damore — reportedly a graduate of the University of Illinois who grew up in the Chicago suburbs — and his MANifesto also slams Google for not being a friendly place for conservatives, which is odd since conservatives spend a good bit of their time mocking the idea of safe spaces.

"MANifesto." I see what you did there. Bet you thought you were being witty or something. Perhaps Christopher Hitchens was wrong about the gender “funny” gap? Or maybe this is one of those instances of a gender overlap in unfunniness… 

Anyway, Yes, conservatives mock the idea of spaces specifically designed to exclude opposing viewpoints and maintain a safe cocoon for ideological consensus. In that respect, Damore wasn't asking for a "safe space", because he was not asking for other viewpoints to be excluded. He was asking for his viewpoint and the viewpoints of conservatives to no longer be excluded in the ideological "safe space" Google has constructed. 

Not very ironic at all, really. 

He writes: "Alienating conservatives is both non-inclusive and generally bad business because conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness, which is require (sic) for much of the drudgery and maintenance work characteristic of a mature company.”
So the dude who doesn't believe in stereotypes claims conservatives are more conscientious than everyone else. Perfect.

Certain "big five" personality traits correlate heavily with political affiliation. That isn't just "making stuff up", it's well documented in the literature. 

But you being someone who’s intellectually and morally consistent and all, I’m sure you would be just as dismissive and angry if he’d stereotyped liberals as being more open to new things, ideas, experiences, and ways of doing things than conservatives are. 

Wait a minute. Damore actually did say that. Quite clearly. And somehow you didn't take issue with it as negatively stereotyping conservatives, let alone positively stereotyping liberals.

“Well of course liberals are no more openminded regarding change and innovation than conservatives are! That's just a stereotype! Based on dodgy science! Openminded people would never be more likely to align with liberal political ideologies and closed-minded ones with more conservative politics. Stop with these awful stereotypes!” said no pompous, self-congratulatory liberal asshole anywhere.

So you tell me why you didn't criticize his description of right-leaning people as "closed", but only took issue with him describing them as "conscientious"? Perhaps you just don't like the idea that there are positive traits associated with conservatism or that some positive traits don’t correlate with liberalism? 

If you care to read the full memo, you can find it online, though you'll likely sprain an ocular muscle rolling your eyes.

Actually, I found it to be factual, coherent, well-reasoned and well-evidenced. (Well, it was better-evidenced before left leaning editors on Wikipedia began to dismantle the pages he linked to.)

Also, another joke fell flat. The attempt at proper grammar and terminology ruined it, and the hilarious thing is, it’s not even anatomically correct. You don’t sprain muscles, you sprain ligaments

My take — as a white, male who, for whatever reason, is not part of the aggrieved brommunity

Really? You’re not aggrieved? Because this article reads as more of an uninformed, knee-jerk “screed” than Damore’s “MANifesto” could even pretend to. And “brommunity”? Really? This guy strikes you as a “dudebro”? 

James Damore: last seen benching Hooters waitresses, shouting, “work out by day, Joe Rogan Podcast by night, all day!”

 — is that the Google engineer's word barf is insufferable,

Maybe this is part of that gender personality overlap thing. “Insufferable”? Do you need a fainting couch, Rex? Did his arguments give you the vapors? Were you so scandalized that a man could say such at thing that you had the sudden urge to fan yourself and hit him with your reticule? Because I didn’t find his thesis (which is what it was) to be word barf. I certainly didn’t find it insufferable. 

unquestionably insulting to women

I’m a woman. I didn’t find any of it insulting. I found it thoughtful and factual. So did Dr. Debra Soh, a woman of color who writes about the politicization of sex. On the other hand, I find your insistence on taking umbrage on my behalf, and hers, and other women like us, insulting. You don’t know me. You don’t know every woman on the planet. You don’t know what any given woman is going to find insulting. 

Assuming that women as a group would be insulted by this memo is more gender essentialist than anything Damore said. You are literally saying women are so essentially the same we would all react the same way to what was contained in the memo.

(and pretty much any non-white person)

Hmmm. Debra Soh isn’t white. Professor Gad Saad, who would also broadly agree with the memo, is an Arab Jew. 

And frankly, Damore barely mentioned race. Race was only relevant to his memo inasmuch as diversity measures also seek to improve racial diversity at places like Google, and the methods being used—namely, implicit/unconscious bias training—have been shown in the research to not only be ineffective at that, but to have the negative effect of increasing tensions between identifiable groups.

and the epitome of white, male privilege.

If he had any kind of effective “white male privilege” he’d be able to write an uninformed, snarky, completely unsubstantiated screed, even in a distinguished publication like the Chicago Tribune, without being lambasted, smeared and mischaracterized in the mainstream press and then fired. Instead, the opposite happened to our privileged white male dudebro. 

And I’m not even going to blame the fact that you can be this incompetent and wrong and still have a job on “white male privilege”. I’m going to blame it on ideological privilege. The current media, political and corporate culture predominantly supports an ideology that is opposed to the very notion that men and women might have some fundamental differences in personality and preference that are measurable across large populations. 

You know, you guys believe that evolution stopped at the neck. That you are wrong and bordering on batshit insane appears to be immaterial to you. 

And with all that said, he absolutely, without question, had every right in the world to write what he wrote.

Yes he did. So kind of you to make that observation. 

Just like Google had every right to fire his white, male butt for, I assume, violating all manner of company standards and for just being an all-around turd. (I would've fired him just for thinking anyone would want to read a 10-page memo in the first place.)

You know, I just went and did a ctrl-f on your article, and found at least 16 instances of “white male”, “white man”, “white-dude”, "white guy", etc. You sure seem to have a hard on for white guys. Maybe it’s because you suffer from “one good man syndrome” and feel an impulse to bash other men (and thereby distinguish yourself as the one good one), and the only men you’re allowed to bash these days are white? You must have jizzed in your pants when it came out that Damore wasn’t of Pakistani origin.

Be that as it may, Damore has grounds to sue Google under two federal laws and at least one state law. And if I were your boss, I’d fire you for writing an opinion piece on a controversial topic that makes no effort to support said opinion with evidence or reasoning, and that broadly mischaracterizes the topic itself. But alas, I’m not your boss.

There will surely be legal action, and maybe he'll wind up prevailing. But Google was right to can him, and that canning isn't an attempt to curtail his freedom of speech.

No. It was an attempt to keep Google’s workplace ideologically pure, and an attempt to send a very clear warning to anyone else who might have heretical ideas to keep their heads down and their mouths shut rather than offer an opinion, no matter how well reasoned and evidenced, on how to improve the company. It was also a concession to the maniacs in the press who had so vilified and smeared Damore, and so thoroughly misrepresented what he’d said to the public, that Google felt keeping him as an employee would subject the entire company to the same treatment. 

50% of Google employees responding to a poll disagreed with Google’s decision to fire Damore. That doesn’t mean they agree with what was contained in Damore’s memo, mind you. They disagree that him thinking those things, or writing them down and circulating them, was a fireable offence. 

He can say or write whatever he wants. But the things he says and writes might come with consequences, particularly when he's sharing his words on an internal company forum.

He wrote and circulated the memo a month before he was fired. No higher-ups even took him to task for it. He wasn’t fired until after the memo leaked to the public and the press began its spin game. 

If the memo itself didn’t raise a stir until it became public, then perhaps it’s the individual who leaked the memo to the press who should be canned. 

This isn't a First Amendment issue. 

Of course it’s not. Google is not the government. Yet. That doesn’t make it not a free speech issue. Just like pro-life protesters showing women photos of aborted fetuses on the steps of Planned Parenthood isn’t a “right to abortion issue”. Those women going into the clinic still have a right to abortion, right? No matter who is standing on either side of them, and what message they’re conveying via words and imagery, as those women walk up the steps.

Somehow I have the feeling you’d disagree. 

The government isn't interfering with anybody's right to free speech. Still, many white guys have rushed to the Google bro's defense, crying about how put upon they are because they're never allowed to speak their minds.

I’d say being fired for speaking your mind in a perfectly reasonable way, and presenting scientific evidence that is perfectly non-controversial in the scientific community, in response to an official request for feedback on a topic, is kind of the definition of “put upon”. 

Also, has the guy used the word “swole” while I wasn’t looking? Has he asked anyone “do you even lift, bro?”? Has he yelled, “YOLO swag!” out the window of his Camero while driving twice the speed limit through a residential neighborhood? Why do you keep characterizing him as a bro?

If you are a white guy in America, you are not put upon. And if you feel put upon, it's because you can't be bothered to put yourself in another person's shoes for half a minute and try to understand what being put upon actually looks like.

Oh, I know. The privileged white guy narrative is intoxicating to a lot of white guys like you at the top. I mean, it must be very comforting to think that your race and your gender protects you from bad things and gives you an edge over the competition. And it also gives you something to bash the rest of the competition with. “I’m a white guy, and I’m nothing like all those other white guys. They’re BAD. I’m GOOD.”

Anyway, I seem to recall Damore saying something about men being more driven that women in terms of status seeking. What does the white male privilege narrative do for some men other than give them the illusion of high status? I mean, you have all this white male privilege, Rex. It’s almost like inheriting money instead of having to earn it, and as long as the illusion holds, as long as everyone still agrees that the currency is valid, well, you’re sitting pretty, aren’t you? Especially if you can portray yourself as spending your currency on philanthropy and all those other white males are spending theirs on racism and sexism and whining about their lot in life.

If you're griping about political correctness, you're really saying you're annoyed because you can't be flip with your language and say things that might offend other people.

You offend me, Mr. Huppke. Your article offends me. It insults me. If I were a feminist, I’d call it one long “mansplanation” about how I as a woman am supposed to feel, think and behave. Nothing in Damore’s memo stereotyped me personally as thin-skinned, prone to negative emotion, quick to take offence and incapable of handling difficult truths. YOU did that when you declared by some “one good man fiat from on high” that I, as a woman, was unquestionably insulted by his memo. 

The pros and cons and the implementation of diversity programs can and should certainly be discussed openly,

Really. Really? The pros and cons of diversity programs can and should be discussed openly, as long as people who disagree with them are okay with being misrepresented and smeared in the press and then fired. Really sets the tone for an “open discussion”. Or is it only as long as they're not white males? Which would essentially render your opinion invalid. 

but a self-righteous screed that's blind to anyone else's point of view isn't a discussion.

I would challenge anyone to read Damore’s memo and actually defend the idea that it was self-righteous or a screed. Do it. Give it the treatment I’ve given your article. Paragraph by paragraph, even line by line. 

Your diatribe here fits that bill much more aptly. You haven’t provided any evidence for your opinion. You haven’t even told us why you object to his memo, other than “muh stereotypes!” and “white male, reeeeeeeee!” You haven’t refuted any of his arguments other than to say “he’s white and he’s male and he’s a “bro”, therefore he’s wrong.”

It's a white guy mansplaining to female and non-white coworkers how diversity should work,

As a female, I’d rather have his mansplaining than yours. His mansplaining is firmly rooted in the science. Your mansplaining is rooted in the assumption that I and all other women should be offended by reality. 

and the very existence of that kind of thinking is why companies need diversity training.

To get bitches like me in line? The very existence of that kind of thinking? Really? 

Because I think like that, Mr. Huppke. A bisexual working class woman who’s apparently more acquainted with the science than you are. Do you think I need to be reeducated? To what lengths are you willing to go to cram me back into my victim box where I belong?

It's not a liberal or a conservative concept. It's a human concept,

What’s a human concept? That all people are identical? That there are no heritable differences between individuals or groups? That people should be treated as individuals and hired based on merit rather than their membership in a given class of people defined by skin color, or genitalia, or who they like to fuck, or god forbid, whether they use edgy, made-up pronouns? That people should have equal opportunities and the freedom to decide what to do with them, and that sometimes women will choose differently from men? That evolution didn’t stop at the neck? That having a greater interest in people or aesthetics does not make a person, or even a class of people on average, inferior to people who have a greater interest in things or ideas? That equality doesn’t equal sameness? That it takes all sorts? That despite the ways we’re different, we should value each other as humans and judge each other as individuals?

Or is it a human concept that there is only one path to value and self-actualization—the one favored by males? That the idea that people might be born different from each other must mean some have greater value and some have lesser? That we must therefore deny the idea that people are born different and punish anyone who suggests it? Is it a human concept that women are a hive mind, devoid of any opinion that doesn’t originate in our chromosomes or our vaginas, that we all think and feel the same, and that our opinions should first and foremost be that we are insulted by any HINT of a suggestion that we are not identical to men? 

I mean, who's hating or devaluing women here, Mr. Huppke? A guy who acknowledges how they’re different on average from men, places positive value on many of those differences, and recommends that Google can appeal more to women by appealing to those differences? Or someone like you who claims that any suggestion that women aren’t 100% identical to men is an insult to women?

one that only requires the humility to acknowledge that you might not understand what it's like to be another person.

You do realize that not even all white guys are the same, right? I mean, I suppose on some level you have to understand that, since you’re the “one good one”, while the rest are all privileged dudebro assholes. But what makes you an expert on other people’s experiences, Rex? You certainly don’t seem to have one clue as to how a woman like me thinks and feels. And yet you’re the one speaking on behalf of all women. 

Now let me get to the conclusion promised at the beginning of this column. This may prove controversial, but I'm sure my fellow white men will agree that I have every right in the world to share this conclusion, because white-dude thoughts are always worth sharing:

You have every right to say stupid things, sure. But not because you’re a white dude. Because you’re a human being and you live in a country that values freedom of speech. 

Some white men are not biologically suited to writing memos about diversity.

And that white man’s name is apparently Rex Huppke. 

They are too neurotic and tend to perform better in bubbles in which their sense of dominance is reinforced by other neurotic white men. These white men also tend to be overly emotional, particularly when fired for writing diversity memos, and can become hysterical when held accountable.

Um… I would challenge you to watch all the interview footage of James Damore. He comes across as analytical and humble, and quite sanguine about the situation. There’s less hysterical emotionality in all of that footage than in this not quite 900 word article. 

Your position is indefensible, Rex. 

This is not to say I am opposed to diversity in diversity memo writing. This particular subset of white men is capable of working in supporting roles, possibly supplying a company's more biologically qualified women or people of color with printer paper, or perhaps procuring coffee for them while they write sensible diversity memos.

“Sensible” diversity memos that may or may not be backed by the scientific literature. I mean, I’m sure there are women and people of color out there who are perfectly capable of looking at the relevant science and constructing a thesis and list of suggestions that are both fair and workable. I suspect that they’d look a lot like James Damore’s memo. 

Because, and I know this is going to sound weird, Rex, but not all white men think the same. Not all people of color think the same. Not all women think the same. 

Here is a short list of examples of women and people of color who disagree with you, Rex.

But attempts to encourage white men to write diversity memos is clearly social engineering run amok. We must respect the differences in our DNA and the skill sets our biology have clearly predetermined.

Because white and male are excluded from the definition of diversity now. A “diverse” workplace is one that only concerns itself with women and people of color. And it certainly doesn’t concern itself with diversity of thought. That would be blasphemy, wouldn’t it?

Let's stay in our lanes, shall we?

Yeah, no thanks. I’m happy to choose my lane for myself, Mr. Huppke.