Books and Reading, Education, Language and Linguistics, Life Stuff, Politics

The power of research and knowing your sources

Today I want to think and write about this: one specific example of bad journalism/research/fact checking in ONE Cosmo online article I read today. If you don’t want to read my tirade at the state of today’s teens and 20 or 30 somethings, jump to the fun and skip all the stuff between the lines.


This is one example and therefore I probably am not justified in making my next statement. But I am going to anyway:

Rigorous research, healthy skepticism of sweeping generalisations, adherence to questioning your source and ITS methods of data collection and analysis are either 1) Not being taught in schools, or 2) we are allowing people who end up as journalists, social ‘scientists’ and commentators, to graduate from our schools without mastering the process.

In addition, the vast majority of my political, social or philosophical discussions in the last ten years lack NUANCE and an ability to agree on the topic of discussion. If I say, for example, that I believe Hemingway is a better author than Maya Angelou, the conversation changes to my racist white privileged self who needs to check it. No. Argue the merits with me. I’m capable. Trust me. Are you? There seems to be a real inability to actually argue or listen to a finer point that someone is making. They might actually be largely agreeing with you but you are too busy hearing how they are not just saying that the ACA was the best thing EVER.

Yes, I sound like I don’t want you on my lawn. And I really don’t. Especially if you’re going to be so immune to critical thinking and unable to argue a nuanced concept. The problem with that, of course, is that I am acquiescent. And I kind of refuse to silently sit and watch it all go to hell anymore.giphy.gif


So, onto my concrete example from this morning. I chose to speak about this one specific thing because it covers so many of the bases. It is all based around the following sentence in the article linked below. Please don’t get hung up on where I found it. It has plenty to discuss, but I’d like to focus on the ‘fact’ that’s thrown out here:

Blue used to be the color most associated with little girls, due to its association with the Virgin Mary. But Hitler—yes, Hitler—feminized the color pink by forcing gays to wear triangles in that shade during World War II.) – http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a10280732/gender-reveal-parties/?src=socialflowTW

Now, boys and girls, from reading comprehension lessons in English class, you should have acquired the skill to find the fact I focused on. If we strip away the adverbs and adjectives and other words that set the sentence’s tone we find this assertion:

“Hitler … feminized the color pink … during World War II.”

I have purposefully left out the judgmental “yes Hitler”  and the “and we know he is evil because he hated gays” part. I REALLY just want to focus on the factual statement made by Diane Stopyra in the above article.

tyra-bad.gifI went:  REALLY? We didn’t do pink before?

So, I did a FIFTEEN minute research stint from the comfort of my home desk. It was not exhaustive and did not involve my own gathering of evidence. But I believe I found solid scholarly publication that at the very least put her factual statement in question, and, I would argue, makes it sound simplistic and frankly untrue.

I tried two or three search terms before finding an article on gender and infant clothing colors that had an extensive list of cited sources that I could access quickly.

That article’s citations led me here: Pink and Blue  NOTE: I’m taking a moment to provide the credentials for the article, the publication, and the author between the next two lines.


The article is by Marco Del Giudice, PhD of the University of New Mexico. It was published this year (2017) as a Letter to the Editor in Archives of Sexual Behavior – the official publication of the International Academy of Sex Research, – a journal which has been in publication since 1971 and describes itself as “dedicated to the dissemination of information in the field of sexual science, broadly defined.” I think it seems a legitimate scholarly publication, although I have little knowledge of psychological journals specifically. My own academic expertise lies in legal research, textual analysis and manuscript research. 

I landed on this article in particular because it had more than a handful of citations to support of its sweeping statements about pink and blue clad human infants and toddlers. The majority of the other (admittedly quickly found) articles I saw all relied on one or two quotes and citations that supported their theory.


Yes, I’ve taken you out from between the lines here because it’s important you understand the strength of this particular article’s research and why I chose to rely on it. The author did the following:

I searched theGoogle BooksNgram Vieweron June 7, 2017,
using the 2012 American English corpus (identifier: google-
books-eng-us-all-20120701) and the 2012 British English cor-
pus (identifier: googlebooks-eng-gb-all-20120701). The follow-
ing search phrases were used (case insensitive): ‘‘pink for a girl,’’
‘‘blue for a boy,’’‘‘blue for a girl,’’‘‘pink for a boy,’’‘‘pink for girls,’’
‘‘blue for boys,’’‘‘blue for girls,’’‘‘pink for boys,’’‘‘pink for the
girls,’’‘‘blue for the boys,’’‘‘blue for the girls,’’ and‘‘pink for the
boys’’ (see Del Giudice, 2012). The search was repeated on six
20-year intervals spanning the range 1881–2000, with smooth-
ing set to 20 years to obtain the mean percentage of occurrences
over each time interval. Percentages were summed across search
phrases corresponding to the present-day standard convention
(pink =F, blue =M) and phrases corresponding to the reverse
convention (pink =M, blue =F). Finally, total percentages
were multiplied by 10
7
for readability.

Pink, Blue, and Gender: An Update (PDF Download Available). Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317832997_Pink_Blue_and_Gender_An_Update [accessed Jul 16, 2017].

In other words, it was reasonably comprehensive and analytical and open to a wide range of results.

The results are not as clear cut as Ms Stopyra (remember my original Cosmo writer and her “Hitler did it” assertion?) would have her readers believe. The following screengrab is just a small selection of cited references that Del Giudice found. There is also a beautiful graph that shows a distinct pink tone in both girls and boys and back and forth decades before Hitler decided it was feminine.

DExvyzlV0AAkrBZ.jpgAs an aside, I find it hilarious  that Miss Grey of the Tacoma Times changed her mind 100% from 1909 to 1910 – see the two bottom parargraphs of my picture.

It is my assertion that the idea of an almost universally hated figure like Hitler coming up with the ‘feminising of pink’ suited Ms Stopyra’s narrative perfectly. Therefore she did not question her cited source’s methods or motives of tracing our (apparently sexist and disturbing) association of pink with girls. It fits in with the rest of her article and main point perfectly. Hitler did it, we don’t want to be like Hitler, don’t be bad.  My husband believes these things are done on purpose. I don’t think so. I think it’s just lazy critical thinking and thought-police propaganda. Never underestimate the power of confirmation bias.

Reader beware. I decided that in order to be thorough I had to give Ms Stopyra some credit and check the source of her incorrect assertion. There was a link to her cited source provided.

The Luxury Economy and Intellectual Property: Critical Reflections The book she cites actually looks like it may have some interesting reading and insights.  I have to question though if she actually read the sentence where she saw the word Hitler and understood what the statement being made was. To me it looks like she did a cursory glance, found the two evil words roughly in the same paragraph, and ran with it.

And now, thousands of young girls will tell each other the fact they read.

I mean, we shouldn’t even like pink; Hitler made us think we did.

But we all know purple is the only colour anyway.

*Disturbingly, I’ve just run a search engine check on the author. She writes ‘science’ articles for Salon.com as well.

 

Transmogrification, Video Gaming, World of Warcraft

Instead of leveling pets during pet week I keep getting lost in the Collection Shop addon at the auction house. I’ve been trying to put together a look for my Shaman, but frustration with the mail fashions of Azeroth, I end up shopping for Helvette and my plate wearers.

I’ve been playing around with these Corrupted Soulcloth Pantaloons for a while. I think I finally gave up on matching the clue/aqua in the pants with a tunic and went with the Buccaneer’s Vest. I’ve wanted to give her more of a ‘modern’ feel for a while. Run around in lore friendly robes for 11 years and you start needing a change!

Here’s the result. And one in shadow form.

Wowhead dressing room link.

 

It’s super fun to run around in and stuff, but I’m SUPPOSED to be leveling my Shaman.

My Alliance Shaman.

Sigh.

Blog Challenge, Video Gaming, World of Warcraft

What’s in Your Warcraft Bag?

This fortnight’s topic from Z and Cinder’s Blog Challenge is to share what’s in your bags. You’re not supposed to tidy them up first. Well, I recently did that, so they shouldn’t be too bad, right? I will admit that I emptied the mail and sorted things off to alts before I took these screen shots and video (it’s coming when I find a new program to do voice overlay) but my bags are generally well kept if … full of stuff.

Hexweave bags in every slot. Reverse bag and slot ordering courtesy of Bagnon. The ‘Clean up’ ignores the bottom Hexweave bag. It’s the stuff I try not to leave home without.

BOTTOM BAG: Helvette and my ‘main’ alts all have Hexweave bags in every slot. I use Bagnon to organize and do reverse bag order and reverse slot order. So the bottom bag is a Hexweave bag. I mark ‘Ignore this bag’ in the bag cleanup feature. This is the stuff I never leave home without. Too much I’m sure.

Three Hearthstones, the Darkmoon Faire book (I just carry it all the time so I don’t have to worry about whether I have it for skulls or not), an enchanting rod, my pet battle tokens (current goal 500), pet bandages, a food … I don’t have any Legion recipes yet, a health pot, a flask.

Then my fishing gear. That’s Nat’s pole from Draenor, the big bobber, the filetting thingy, and Nat’s Hat. And the Darkmoon Faire thing that lets you collect resources quicker. next is my mojo we got at start of Legion and I never use, and tomes I never use. An enchanting vellum in case.

Arakkoa archaeology thingies because you never know, and two random archy sites in Draenor – mainly to get quickly to pet battles. Miner’s coffee – I mine mainly for archy fragments. A couple of alcohol’s to keep Nat happy when fishing, a random swiftness potion I don’t know where came from, my flower for dead people, a field medic kit I don’t know what’s for, and my Last deck of Nemelex Xobeh which only has ONE charge at the moment – need to get to the Faire!! Inky black to make the world dark, and a random fishing lure.

SECOND TO BOTTOM: Overflow from the first really. I picked up flour and spices and coarse thread for the Faire already. And I have some silly Winterfall beads because of the Sun Darter Hatchling pet thing – post coming. The next two bags are for extra gear and consumables – currently empty because not questing much. Can get full.

TOP BAG: Where I keep stuff I don’t want to mess up and accidentally sell, DE or whatever. Last night, all my Sun Darter Hatchling cave stuff.

Continue reading “What’s in Your Warcraft Bag?”

Game impressions and reviews, Orwell, Video Gaming

Orwell – Best $5 I’ve spent on Steam so far

So I just tweeted that no game was grabbing my attention at the moment. Then I headed over to Steam on a whim, and found Orwell in my recommendations. The game’s blurb goes like this:

Big Brother has arrived – and it’s you. Investigate the lives of citizens to find those responsible for a series of terror attacks. Information from the internet, personal communications and private files are all accessible to you.

Since it cost $4.99 today, I thought – oh ok. I have had one game day ‘on the job’.

My organization’s monitoring of CCTV footage identified a girl who had been accused of assaulting a police officer during a protest against the government a few weeks ago. This led to me accessing her social media accounts, her chat account, and also identified several members of her family, their occupations, and some vague insights into their personal lives. I have had to trawl through her posts and texts to see if I can find anything relevant to a current terrorist situation. The work makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Much of what she says on social media could or could not be relevant, might or might not be serious, and I have to decide whether to add the information to her file. It’s chilling, to say the least.

I’ll try to update my review when I finish.

Bilingualism, Language and Linguistics, Music, Third Culture

Can you really translate poetry or lyrics?

I wish I had another Norwegian speaker to help me out here, but I’m sure some other bilingual reader might have input.

I have loved this girl band from my home town* of Bergen for years. I’ll give you their iTunes and wiki page links below, don’t worry. I particularly love the remix by Souldrop which you can see on YouTube below this paragraph.  I have tried to spread the word about this track many times.

bergen

The track speaks to me about going ‘out’ in Bergen ca 1992. At least what it was like for me back in those ancient times. I sometimes try to translate the lyrics. The track is called “Aldri” – which is easily translates. It means “Never” and the direct translation does not really detract from the meaning on the lyric in any way.

It doesn’t quite hit the mark either. The translation is more correct as “Never-Ever”. But the so-called ‘correct’ … literal translation if you will … does not do the poetic, lyrical title justice.

I often have this feeling about translation. Being bilingual, I see a lot of atrocious translation. Sometimes it is so literal that it totally ignores the tone of the original. Sometimes it is so tonally correct it loses a subtlety that only the literal translation could capture.

Roughly speaking, the lyric is spoken by a girl who is sick of chasing this boy at the end of the night – “You’ll never never, never ever be mine.” She ‘searches through the city’s streets’, it’s wet it is cold, this is something she hates. Here is an excerpt of my translation:

I have to get a clue; Between us it is through; With my jacket out the door; Find myself another boy.

Original: Eg e nødt til å forstå, mellom oss e det slutt, tar eg jakken min og går, finne meg en annen gutt

The original has a spectacular rhythm that fits with the rhythm of the track but loses none of it’s amazing faithfulness to the Bergen dialect and natural rhyme. And ‘boy’ and ‘gutt’ aren’t exactly the same thing.

I wish I could translate this track’s magic, but I find myself inadequate. I hope you’ll enjoy at least trying to hear what I hear:

*(well one of my home towns, depending on who I’m speaking to)

 

Books and Reading, Life Stuff

Reading taste update

Reading has always been like eating and sleeping to me. For as long as I can remember I’ve devoured books. I’m honestly not sure what I started with. The Hardy Boys? But I know at some point I started devouring Nancy Drew novels. I don’t even know if it was because I loved them or if it was because everyone my parents knew could count on that being a well-received gift. And there were lots of them. I kept reading. Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction, trashy novels I’d sneak up in the middle of the night and borrow from my parents’ bookshelves, classics, Norwegian books, English books. I just READ.

And then I read for my degree. I have a Cand. Philol. (Master’s – M.A.) in English. I read literature out the wazoo. Loved it. Read Shakespeare. Read Beckett. Read Romantics, read 20th Century, read Chaucer. I read read read read. Now, I don’t necessarily go so ‘literary’ or classical. Here are the last 15 books I’ve read – I’ll discuss below.

When I finished my degree, I guess I had gotten a real taste for modern literature, and I tried to find everything I’d missed and everything still coming out in that vein. I read every Man Booker finalist, all the literary review books, and anything that smelled a LITTLE of ‘quality’ literary fiction. This way, I discovered Dancer by Colum McCann, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, and many other gems. Good friends all those books.

Then for a few years here at the start of this decade, I read very little on a regular basis. My reading was limited to beach reading. That reading continued to be eclectic. But I’d read a book or two at the beach. Sometimes long ones.

I’ve always loved fantasy, but I stopped reading fantasy about 20 years ago. Nothing felt fresh anymore I guess. And, admittedly, I had my reading hands full with all my required course reading. During those years my ‘offtime’ reading moved from fantasy to legal thrillers, Stephen King, and what I think is loosely labeled ‘Women’s Fiction’ … Not  full on romance, I have yet to hit that treasure trove, but things like Danielle Steele, Maeve Binchy … that sort of thing.

At some point, I discovered audio books. I started looking for Norwegian books, in particular on Audio books, to help keep up my mother tongue, even when I didn’t speak Norwegian to anyone for a year at a time. I also drove around the United States showing my cats (another story), and audio books kept me awake. ‘Read’ all the Harry Potter novels that way.  I discovered that I loved especially mystery/thriller/crime fiction on audio. And that led to actually reading crime fiction.

These days, I am VERY critical of any ‘literary’ fiction I pick up. Maybe I’m getting cranky in my old age. Or maybe the popularity of book clubs and ‘Book Club Discussion Guides’ has created a market for B-grade literary fiction that the Oprahs and publishers and Amazons of the world throw at us and tell us is very high brow. I find so much of it labored, inelegant and pompous. Hemingway would certainly not approve of much of it, I feel.   Funnily enough, I didn’t like Hemingway 30 years ago. Couldn’t stand him. Now I love his writing.

A couple of years ago, I trained myself to get back into reading every day. It didn’t take long, and now I’m right back into it. But I have less patience with books that irritate me, don’t grab me, or are just plain boring or not my style. I have no problem stopping at 30% and picking up something else. After all, it’s not my JOB anymore, I might as well like it!

Do you feel you ‘should’ be reading different material? Do your tastes change? Do you long to read more or less?

Building the Dream House, Life Stuff

Build update – the finance drama

OK – so now that this story has a happy ending, I can talk about this. Because I think it DOES have a happy ending. Our construction loan papers are winging their way from the bank to our NZ solicitor to prepare for us to sign.

This pretty much means that the bank is happy and our solicitor just has to prepare the mortgage for them and us to sign. Then after we’ve paid our required input into the build, the bank will pay our builder’s invoices as they get presented. Well, we present the invoice, the bank releases the money to us, then we pay. When the build is complete we convert the construction loan to a ‘regular’ mortgage and negotiate our payments and interest rate at that point.

As a life decision, this has been easy for us. Financially, it has not been as easy. And I’ll admit it’s a HUGE decision for us. We gave my in-laws what amounts to a reverse mortgage on the property a few years ago. This meant that we effectively took on a second mortgage since we were paying a mortgage on our home in Colorado at the time.

When we made the decision, we figured we’d need about 500,000 NZD to tear down the existing bach and build a home we’d love on the property. We basically pulled this amount out of our armpit, but we were confident. Now, at the time, beachfront ‘nice’ places at the same beach were never selling for less than one million dollars. We had promised my in-laws a separate unit they could use for their life time. And we notoriously do not have inexpensive tastes.

We have been adamant the whole time that this is where we want to live ‘forever’. I am never happier than when I’m at the beach. The same goes for John, although he is also never happy when not working. So he is not ready to go fulltime beach bum. When we decided to go ahead and build we knew that I’d be spending the bulk of my time at the beach and he would be coming as often as he could. I was probably expecting the ‘often as he could’ to be more than it will be now that we know how much we’re really spending, but it is OK.

Most people who know us know that we have a strong relationship. Building has it’s stresses, but we’re feeling confident. I hope not over confident LOL.

When we met with our chosen builder he didn’t mess around with words. He said about 3k-5k NZD per square meter if you want ‘nice’; up to $15k per square meter if you want architectural.

As our plans, which we absolutely LOVED and were everything we wanted, started coming in, they were coming in at a total living area of approximately 210 square meters, and about 400 square meters including deck. Still we figured about 500-600 K — LOL do the math.  Talk about not wanting to actually check. Neither one of us actually remembers consciously putting our head in the sand, but there you go. Here is pretty much exactly what our builder told us:

  • As a very rough starting point, $1500 m2 is very cheap, $2-2500 m2 is more usual and then anything from $3000 m2 and up is more consistent with bespoke designed houses. Source

We figured we’d have 300-400K NZ after the sale of our house in Colorado. This turned out to be pretty much spot on. Luckily. We knew we’d have to ask a NZ bank for SOME money.

Then the initial estimate came in at 1.2 million. More after this lovely pic of the back of our design.

Our house back

The thing is: this whole time we were watching Grand Designs and Grand Designs Australia religiously. We KNEW, once we woke up and thought about it, that our estimate was ridiculous.

We were never going to go the cheapest materials. We’ve deliberately chosen pretty much ALL no- to low-maintenance building materials. Our cladding is a special aluminium cladding that ‘moves’ with coastal winds, doesn’t need painting, and won’t rust in the coastal climate. We’ve done the same with the roof, windows, and soffits (they’re a thing!). Inside, we have chosen seriously hard wood floors to deal with the inevitable tracking of sand from beach walks. If anything, we should have been amazed it wasn’t MORE expensive. – I’ll comment on why we decided to go ahead with the way for expensive build later or in another post.

In our favor have been the levelness of our section, the relative simple design we’ve fallen in love with, and the genius of our architect. She’s known exactly when another inch of deck would mean more steel beams and all that sort of thing.

So when we went to the bank, we knew we were asking for rather a lot. Luckily, the numbers with regards to total value of beach property in New Zealand, my husband’s average monthly salary, the value of the NZ dollar compared to the US dollar and the fact that on paper we own the section out-right were in our favor. The numbers crunch out right. And the bank’s policy is to encourage NZ’ers planning to move back to NZ permanently. We fit that bill.

Still, the logistics of proving income, proving US tax rate, and valuation of our current property has been hard on the stress levels. I tend to be more prone to stress, so I’ve been the ‘The world is ending’ person at every turn, while my husband has been calmly trying to put up with my hysteria. We’ve submitted Social Security statements, W2’s, letters from my husband’s company, deposited the required deposit amount in the bank, provided estimates, contracts, proof of builder’s insurance and probably promised my gay son’s first born as well.

It has NOT helped that our bank liaison person has been relatively inexperienced when it comes to overseas income. I don’t think she was very experienced in professional communication in general. At one stage, she told us that we HAD to have life insurance. Both of us. Despite the fact that currently I don’t have a personal income. The lawyer in me wants to sue her for unprofessional practices at the very least. Perhaps undue sales pressure – she wanted to sell us the bank’s life insurance. But in the end, we think she’s just not that bright, not malicious.

We got our pre-approval letter and offer of lending about a month ago – subject to professional valuation. Our valuation took its sweet time coming, and I was dying.

But it’s now through, our solicitor is preparing the loan documents for us to sign, and the bank is ‘giving’ us $5000 cash as a ‘thank you’. LOL 5000. I don’t blink an eye for less than 10K these days.

Why we went ahead with it, how we’re paying for it, etc will have to wait. On paper we can afford it, and if that’s good enough for the bank it’s good enough for me. My husband must be feeling the pressure, but he will not be alone in paying for it if things work out the way we hope.

There’s no more NYU tuition coming from us though.