Saturday, June 30, 2007

Life Goes On

I'd hate for my once-a-week readers to show up and find nothing new since last week. Suffice it to say I'm alive and well and hopelessly behind on all the tasks I value in my life.

My best friend from grad school, whom I had not seen for about twenty-five years, visited last week. Here she is with Bill who was her major professor all those years ago.

We had a ball walking in the woods, strolling the commons, wandering around Cornell campus reminiscing, relaxing at home with Wallace and Grommet. After recovering from a life-threatening illness last fall, Carol decided to take this summer off and do some things differently. Frankly, it gave me a different view of life to realize I was on someone's "things to do before I die" list.

I wouldn't trade those few days with Carol for anything. But I must say I neglected a few things. Like spraying deer repellent in the garden. The deer seemed to warn me every day by sampling one more delicacy. And weeding. This is the week purslane takes over the garden. And at least one project at work may have to be jettisoned 'cause the deadline of the next project is encroaching. Oh, well. Moving on.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Leendalu got me started this morning with her Psychedelic Sixties menu and Tuna-Black Olive-Lime Jello reference. Then I wandered over to Rebecca's Pocket where Rebecca wrote about The Food Timeline. It's enough to know that marshmallows appeared around 2000BC - 500 years prior to chocolate. But skip all the fascinating stuff through the centuries down to 1897 and the link to Jello. Gelatin was patented in 1845 and in 1897 fruit flavored Jello made its debut in LeRoy, New York with strawberry, raspberry, orange and lemon. An amazing variety of flavors have appeared and disappeared since then. Chocolate and Cola-flavor were particularly short lived.

And then there was the salad-dressing flavor I referred to in my comment to Leendalu. In 1953 Celery, Italian, Mixed Vegetable and Seasoned Tomato appeared. The Italian was a regular in my family, usually with cucumbers and grated carrots mixed in. In all honesty, my mother's cooking gave depth to the joke about how the British discovered the new world in search of a decent meal. I should add that, in contrast to the Jello salad, she did teach me to make a good fresh fruit salad with properly peeled and sectioned grapefruit, half grapes and apples and bananas added at the last minute and coated in the citrus juice to delay browning.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fun New Tool

Lately I've been lurking around Ellis Hollow - the blog, not the place. I got there from my favorite gardening site Cold Climate Gardening and kept going back 'cause the garden featured is so nearby and 'cause even the non-garden topics are really cool.

This morning browsing Craig's Art category I came to Britney Spears in the garden which normally wouldn't catch my attention but I wondered where the lovely photo came from. The photo credit is there. But best of all Craig uses Gender Genie to rate his post and compare it to a similar post by a female friend.

Gender Genie says it works best with text of 500 words or more. So, I scrolled through my blog for a long-ish post. Fun with Squirrels seemed fairly gender neutral. I cut and pasted it into Gender Genie and this is what I found.
The analysis is based on innocent prepositions, adverbs, articles, conjunctions and few pronouns and verbs - no telltale nouns or adjectives. Fun with Squirrels scored a fairly ambiguous 56% male most of which can be attributed to a whopping 54 occurrences of the word "the." The best I did on the feminine side was using "not" 7 times. The two posts tested by Ellis Hollow, one written by a woman, one by a man, were both scored as male by Gender Genie. So, with n=3 Gender Genie's accuracy is 33% - not so good. So, is the algorithm wrong? Or are my writing and Craig's friend's writing screwy. I plan to test this some more. You try it, too. Let me know what you find.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Language and Bias

Yet another dying gasp of the story about the questionable behavior of several Duke athletes at a party. Now it's about the judge who made inappropriate comments about the athletes. And still the woman is described as an "exotic dancer" hired to work at the party. I realize this is an attempt at a polite way to describe a stripper.

But what if it said the athletes allegedly raped a dancer hired to entertain at the party?

What if it simply said the athletes allegedly raped a woman at the party?

Why do the journalists think it's important that we know she was an exotic dancer? Does that steer us to think it's really not that shocking that she may have been raped? That it's maybe just a little bit okay?

Think about the classist bias in the contrast between "dancer" and "exotic dancer." Or between "a woman" and "a woman hired to ..."

[Disclaimer: yes, I know the charges were dropped. This post is about the language describing the woman, not the guilt or innocence of the boys (men?).]

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Online Fun

There are lots of ways to - um - "spend" time online. I'm shifting to my downstairs computer lately and I'm rearranging my online routine. This morning, checking out my old bloglines links, I noticed Bloglines Most Popular Feeds. "Most Popular..." anything doesn't usually work for me. But just look at what I found.
Forty nine sites covering technology - geek stuff and gadgets.

Twenty seven links to Music, Movies, Cartoons, TV and Literature.

Thirty two news sites. Maybe I shouldn't think of Snopes as news, but I do.

Fourteen Business and Finance sites including Kiplinger, Motley Fool and Money.

Thirteen Art sites

Fifteen Science sites

Fourteen sites covering Food, Fashion, Travel and Cars. (Don't ask me why these form a category in my mind. I just hate to say "miscellaneous.")

One truly miscellaneous, or perhaps interdisciplinary site. Kottke led me to spend much of my online time this morning at places like
  • WSJ: How the Presidents Stack Up. Graph shows that since Truman every president except Clinton has left office lower in ratings than they started. In fact, since Truman every president except Clinton has left office with approval ratings below 60% (some far, far below 60%.)
  • Strange Maps where you can find a US map with states labeled for countries with similar GDPs. Fascinating not only for the comparison of GDPs but to observe one's gut reaction to connotations. Why would I rather be Colorado, which is comparable to Finland, than Arizona whose higher GDP is comparable to Thailand? At Strange Maps you can also find The Cultural Inglehart-Welzel Map of the World. I want to live in one of the countries at the upper right of the map: Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, et al. Well, really I want the US to be at the upper right of the map. Actually, though it is in the top 15% of Self-Expression values, it's well below the midpoint for Secular-Rational values.
I wish I could take time to give you all the links I had fun with. But, really, I've got to get to work.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Maggy's Birthday 07

Yesterday was Maggy's birthday. There were balloons. (That's the Rhododendron I guarded from the deer all winter.)

And presents (in my new minimalist wrapping style)

And cake. [I've collectedlots of these "about to blow out the candle" pictures over the years.]