A Simple Solution to Everything

I propose “Weekday Saving Time”. Once each year, during the first week of May, we skip Tuesday. Then we add an additional Tuesday to the first week of November. This will result in an increase in the number of weekdays available overall, significantly boosting American productivity.

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It’s Not That Easy Seeing Green

From an article in yesterday’s New York Times:

Take again the case of color and wavelength. Wavelength is a real, physical phenomenon; color is the brain’s approximate, slightly incorrect model of it. In the attention schema theory, attention is the physical phenomenon and awareness is the brain’s approximate, slightly incorrect model of it. In neuroscience, attention is a process of enhancing some signals at the expense of others. It’s a way of focusing resources. Attention: a real, mechanistic phenomenon that can be programmed into a computer chip. Awareness: a cartoonish reconstruction of attention that is as physically inaccurate as the brain’s internal model of color.

The crucial point, in one sentence:

The brain computes models that are caricatures of real things.

Of course, many Buddhists and mystics and philosophers and others have been saying this for centuries (only they say it in Sanskrit instead of scientific language, which makes it easier to read), but it looks like science is rapidly catching up.

Let’s Go Role Playing for Dinner!

So a new upscale Mexican restaurant in the Castro has named itself “Bandidos”, and quite a number of people are finding the name offensive. The owners oh-so-cluefully responded at first by deleting all the criticisms from their Facebook page, a brilliant move that predictably got people even more annoyed and caused news of the matter to spread far beyond the Castro.

My first reaction was, huh? I remember the revolting “Frito Bandito” ads from my childhood, of course, but the word “bandido” by itself? I grew up in Orange County in the 1960s and 1970s, and I remember several common slurs used against Latinos, but not “bandido”.

Then I saw where the owners had posted this apology to their Facebook page, and I found my reaction changing:

Hi All, we appreciate your thoughts and feedback and are truly devastated that we’ve insulted anyone – as members of the LGBT community and neighborhood locals for over 15 years, we would never want to create a space where everyone does not feel welcome. We worked with many people on the creation of Bandidos, from many different racial backgrounds, and we all felt that the name evoked the spirit of an old-school place where badasses and outlaws would meet for one-too-many tequilas. We sincerely apologize to those who have been offended – our intention was never to discriminate or reference racial stereotypes and we hope that our community can see it as we do.

Amazing. In one and the same posting — in adjacent sentences, even — without any awareness of any irony, they wrote:

we all felt that the name evoked the spirit of an old-school place where badasses and outlaws would meet for one-too-many tequilas

and

our intention was never to … reference racial stereotypes

I hate to break it to you, guys, but referencing a racial stereotype is exactly what you were intending to do. Read what you yourselves wrote.

If you take a look at the website, you find that what the decor and menu in fact evoke is the spirit of a new-school place where affluent hipsters can drink $11 margaritas and maybe pretend to be badasses and outlaws — but cool, trendy ones. San Francisco was so needing another one of these.

I have no opinion on how offensive the word itself may or may not be to Latinos, but completely apart from that issue, given the kind of restaurant it is and the owners’ explanation, the choice of name does seem kind of creepy to me.

Study on Children of Same-Sex Couples

According to an article on Vox Media,

The largest-ever study of same-sex parents found their children turn out healthier and happier than the general population.

I’ve thought for a very long time that this would turn out to be the case, and it’s nice to see that it worked out that way.

However, the writer of this article thinks that the difference is about having parents who aren’t pressured into gender roles and therefore adapt more freely into the needs of the particular family. I’m skeptical about that. I think it’s a lot more likely that the most important (but slightly hidden) factor at work here is that a same-sex couple has to go over a lot more hurdles to have children, whether through adoption or a surrogate or whatever, than an opposite-sex couple does. For an opposite-sex couple, having children is often the path of least resistance due to pressures from family and society; for a same-sex couple, it almost never is. Among opposite-sex couples, then, a lot of those people will have kids anyway even though they haven’t thought about what it’s going to entail or aren’t really committed to making the effort to care for them; among same-sex couples, nearly all those people are going to get filtered out.

Indeed, until fairly recently, being gay or lesbian and having children meant knowing that your children could very well be taken away from you by some homophobic judge for flimsy reasons that children would never be taken from a straight couple for. Seems to me you’ve got to really want a child in your life before you’d accept the possibility of facing that kind of pain.

Unless a family is so isolated from all other society that there are very few or no other adults of both sexes who play parts in the children’s lives, my guess is that the difference between having parents of the same sex or of opposite sexes is pretty trivial compared against other factors. Whereas whether the child is really loved and wanted by the principal adults in his or her life is always going to be a huge factor.

And my guess is that in another twenty years — maybe ten given how quickly society is changing now — it’ll be almost as easy for same-sex couples to have children as for opposite-sex couples, and the same sort of study will find no significant difference any more.