pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I'm dissatisfied with the current discourse around introversion. I'm glad we're noticing that the rules for expressing love and respect in America were written by extroverts, and that introverts have a set of internal mechanics such that following these rules exacts a huge toll. I'm glad that the internet has given introverts a way to feel belonging and solidarity without exhausting them, and if the forums tend to get taken over by the problems of the socially anxious and misanthropic... oh well, they need belonging too.

But I think it's time we moved on to some more interesting questions. For example, it is great that we have explained to our extroverted family members that we don't hate them, that we need alone time after family gatherings even if we had really excellent times. But that doesn't change the fact that many people live far away from their family, that plane tickets and hotel rooms and time off of work are expensive. Reality being what it is, introverts need to spend a lot more money and travel time per unit interaction with their family. Assuming a respectful if imperfect family, how do you get the most out of your relationships with them at minimal cost? How do you steel yourself to stay home alone when everyone else is having fun together, and you want to join them but need time alone? How do you recharge "efficiently"? How do you know when the desire to do so driven is by an extroverted culture that allows us alone time only in service of together time, versus really wanting to do specific social things and not being able to? How do you separate culture pressure that says you're a loser for staying in from a genuine desire to go out? Do other introverts genuinely feel like they have a battery, with a clear indicator of remaining charge and shut down upon depletion, or are they like me, where they can overshoot and not notice for, worst case scenario, weeks?

I would also like to see more pieces like this video from zefrank, explaining how his extroversion feels to him

or Howard Stern on his introversion (long, but the relevant part is right at the beginning)

because I want to get past this idea of a linear spectrum of introversion and extroversion and into a framework of accepting individual needs and wants with neither judgement nor obligation.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Hypothesis: parents reminding you bring your jacket or pointing out the highway exit are not disproportionately annoying because of the implication you can't remember your own jacket or notice an exit- I myself have forgotten both of those things, and never more often than when my parents are around. The extra annoyance actually stems from the implication that I couldn't cope if I did forget my jacket. This was a reasonable assumption when I was four, but in recent years I have gained the ability to tough it out for the walk from the car to the restaurant without freezing to death. Similarly, when I was on my learner's permit, it was necessary to point out exits a mile in advance, but now I can handle both fast lane changes *and* getting off the highway and turning around. I'm crafty like that.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
I've been very sick for days, and like I always do when I'm that sick for that long, I run out of emotional cope and old wounds reopen. So what do I decide to watch? A documentary about two women confronting the man who molested them as children.

The plan went not as badly as you might think. The metatheme of the movie isn't child molestation, it's the need to make things normal. But sexual abuse is only the worst of many things you can't make normal, and the damage done in trying... I can't say is worse than the initial assault because we'll never know, but it's certainly more insidious. It's also fascinating to watch them desperately try to force normal when it's not there, but then casually mention something really horribly not normal that they clearly think is.

I'm still running a fever so that's all I got right now.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
For the past couple of weeks, there's been a thought bouncing around in my head: There's a remarkable correlation between things I'm bad at as an adult and the things I was allowed to be bad at as a child. But it turns out there's an even better correlation between the things I'm good at as an adult and the things my parents could teach me as a child. My dad even said outright "It would have felt hypocritical to expect you to have good social skills." I'm a pretty big genetic determinist, and there are numerous relevant studies showing that adopted children resemble their birth parents more as they age, but... wait a minute, I just figured something out. But first, the counter-anecdotes.

I have thought of two major talents I had as a child that have gone nowhere in my adulthood: fiction writing, and target shooting. The fiction writing started before I could actually physically write, or read. I dictated stories to my mom. Judging by my teacher's reactions, I was very good at these for my age. I think it was actually a good thing my parents didn't push or formalize my writing, but it meant that it did eventually get more or less dropped in favor of other things. Writing is such a difficult career that I can't say I would have had one, but I definitely would have gone farther with it if I had had someone to teach me writing the way I had my dad to sit over me when I learned algebra. I did eventually reach the point in science where my dad was unable to help me, but that was after years and years of being taught that science was a Thing I Can Do.

I started target shooting was I was 16. Under the theory that it's not bragging because it's relevant to the story but unimportant in real life: I was extremely good at target shooting. I would have had the top honor the junior club gave in a year and a half if mono hadn't eaten up the five months before college (I did get it the next year, but was slowed significantly since I was only shooting when I came home on breaks). Multiple people who had worked with olympic shooters said I had the potential to be one. But the next step would have been attending the empire state games, and the first year the fell on the same day as the SAT IIs, and the next year I had mono and that wasn't happening, and then I was at college. I could take it back up now, but I don't have the time to be as good as I was in high school so what's the point, especially since it's competing for much the same energy as martial arts and I think that's the superior choice. But if I'd been one of those kids whose parents shot, and took them to the range at 6, or even 12, I would have gone pretty far in the sport. I want to give my parents some credit here in that they were incredibly supportive and put a lot of time into taking me to the range so I could practice, but none of us had the time to make up for 8 years of not shooting.

Then we have the one thing I'm good at that my parents never taught me: Computers. Seeing as that's my career, it seems like a pretty big counterargument, but I don't think so. As very young children, computers were my brother's thing. He was a prodigy at manipulating computers' inner workings the same way he was at math. But come 8th grade (homeschooled year) we got a computer, and someone needed to talk to tech support. My dad couldn't do it because he was at work, my mom couldn't do it because she'd get stuck at "go to the start menu", and my brother couldn't do it because it involved talking to people. I wasn't good at it, just the least bad option. But over a few tech support phone calls, computers moved from those things I could play games on if they were working to things that could be learned and controlled. So I'm still left with a pattern of "I'm best at things where someone pushed me over the first hump".

I thought this whole "best at the things I was taught" was going counter to the evidence for genetic determinism, but actually it's not. The specific studies I'm thinking of showed that as adopted children aged, they resembled their adoptive parents less and less and their birth parents more and more- i.e., reflected genetics more than environment. But that's perfectly consistent with what I'm doing- I'm probably getting slightly worse at math ever year, since I never have call to use the last four semesters I took, but I'm consistently getting better at the things my parents couldn't teach me- what we could consider moving towards a truer reflection of my genetic talents.

I'm still working this out, so everyone is encouraged to share their own stories of learning.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
The author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks keeps saying "having his way with her" when she means "he raped her" and it's driving me nuts. The first time she does it, it's in regards to an adult man and a 12 year old girl. Later, it's that same girl (slightly older now), fighting off her male cousins tooth and nail from "having their way with her." Now, there is a point between enthusiastic consent and full rape, but neither of these are it. Had these men succeeded (and they frequently did, although maybe not with this girl, although I kind of suspect they did and she's just not saying so), that would be rape.

I'm not a fan of euphemisms in general, but it strikes me as particularly bad in this case, because it reinforces the idea that rape is when a stranger jumps out of the bushes with a knife and violently penetrates a woman's vagina with his penis, and anything short of that doesn't count. My mom used the exact same phrase to describe Levi Johnston's alleged rape of Bristol Palin. As numerous people have pointed out: Bristol's social environment doesn't consider that story rape, and it's rooted in a thought process that goes: "Sex is bad, men will always want sex, women either don't or have more self control, therefore it's women's job to limit sex. And that makes it a personal failing on her part if unwanted sex occurs."

Doing some extremely fine line reading, I suspect the author is deliberately softening her words at the request of the family. There's evidence to suggest that Lacks didn't want to marry her husband (and first cousin, who grew up like her brother as both were raised by their grandfather), and that it was some combination of uwanted sex and/or pregnancy that led to the marriage. I respect the author's desire to respect the family: they were extremely mistreated by doctors and reporters for decades, they have no benefit of a doubt to give anyone new. It's entirely possible Lacks wouldn't want it to come out that her family was inbred and rape-prone, and if the author had just left it out, I think I'd be okay with it.* But it does a disservice to everyone else on the planet to call rape something other than rape. If it's in there, you have to call it what it is.

*Although if I were the ghost of Henrietta Lacks trying to keep some skeletons in a closet, I think I'd start with the fact that my widower did nothing while the husband of the woman he was banging molested our daughter in the backseat of the car while he (my widower) was driving. The book also makes numerous mentions of him cheating and bringing home STDs, which makes me think maybe he wasn't given a vote in what to censor.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Just finished Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. First thought? Too soon. Her younger daughter hasn't even finished high school yet; there's no way we can know the long term effects of her parenting. More than that, her writing feels like someone who has learned something but doesn't fully understand it yet. As an example: having a pet is very much against her style of child rearing. She gets a puppy to bribe her youngest into learning a violin piece, then obsesses about making the puppy learn tricks so she can impress people (in a fight with her husband, she accuses him of not caring about anyone, that the kids and the dog would never reach their potential if it were up to him. He assume the fight is over because she's making funny jokes about bettering the dog). At some point, she calms down about this enough to stop attempting to teach the dog complicated tricks. Then she calms down enough to get a second dog for no real reason. But she's unable to explain why or how any of that happened. This is third hand, but a friend of mine read a number of reviewers who said the same pattern applied to her historical/economic scholarly articles: she records data without synthesizing or drawing conclusions.

Which brings me to another point: she's not just a practitioner of Chinese Parenting, she's a product of it. And she is not a rousing endorsement. She says she pushes her kids because "nothing is any fun until you're good at it." This is a terrible thing to teach your children for a number of reasons, but three of them are: many things continue to not be fun even when you're good at them, and by then you've wasted a bunch of time on it, and jesus christ, they're four, they don't need to do *anything* for six hours a day except sleep. And if you look at Chua as an adult, you see someone who never developed internal motivation, who drifted into a career in which she's technically competent but has no passion for and derives little enjoyment from, because it was prestigious, and wouldn't know where to start changing things to make herself happy.* At some point, someone needed to teach her how to assess whether you're in a temporary frustration or genuinely don't enjoy a thing.

When called on her atrocious behavior, she has claimed that 1. the stories are exaggerated for effect and 2. the book is about her learning not to do that. The first claim seems weakened by the fact that when pressed for specifics, she stands by every thing she wrote (on the other hand, the ending does seem more or less made up). As for the second, it's hard to tell because the book is so devoid of introspection and analysis, but she looks a lot more like someone who failed and gave up than someone who learned and grew. She finally gives her daughter the option to quit violin (she chooses to continue but at a less intense level) and take up an activity of her choice (Tennis), but, against her daughter's desire to just do tennis without intervention, screams criticism at her and keeps looking for better coaching for her. Nor does she express any regret about anything she did up to that point. She talks about other people thinking she did the wrong thing, but still maintains she was correct, or at worst following the right ideology in a world that didn't appreciate it.

She also never drops her belief that she's doing this "for the kids." From my perspective, that's physically impossible: the kids didn't enjoy it, it won't benefit them later in life**, and the opportunity costs were enormous***. Her counterargument that she was miserable too doesn't impress me: if she was truly miserable, she could have stopped doing it, a choice she didn't give her children. She is also clearly getting off on the accolades her children receive.**** What I found most disturbing was the pride she took when adults complimented the children's love of music -"Wow, that piece was so her", "She must really love music to play so well"- when she's the one providing all the motivation to play (and in the first case, enforcing it by denying the child water and bathroom privileges). That's not evidence of success, it's evidence that adults are imperceptive.

So this book certainly isn't a helpful parenting model, and the author has not succeeded in her stated purpose of demonstrating her own personal growth. It is, however, a very quick read and extremely interesting. And educational as hell, if you're willing to put some time into reading between the lines.

*She does talk about shifting from corporate law to academia because she doesn't enjoy corporate law, but I still think this assessment is solid. Among other things, she doesn't talk about enjoying academia, and whenever she has some success, it "just happened," rather than being something *she did*.

**Even if they become classical musicians, it's not like that's a career with a lot of external rewards.

***See: never being allowed to socialize, ever.

****And in general was extremely concerned with how her children were perceived. They should eat caviar not because it's delicious, or even an interesting experience, but because if they don't then people will think they're uncultured. They shouldn't make fun of foreign names not because it's mean, but because, again, it makes them look uncultured.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
I'm reading a book, Kidding Ourselves, about creating more equal marriages. The author, Rhona Mahony makes the point that marriages will not be equal until extra-martial options are equal- if divorce leaves women desolate and men well off, women will put more energy into the marriage. One of the things she suggests to produce this is ensuring that women receive child support regardless of when their husbands pay it.* Essentially, she'd have the men pay their child support to the government, and the government pay the child support to their children's mothers regardless of whether the man actually paid.

This idea has a lot of innate appeal. There's a lot of ways to stall on paying child support without going to great effort and without getting in trouble. Men can use this to bargain their ex-wives into accepting lesser child support payments because they need the money now**. And that's before you get into men who are willing to move out of state or work off the books. There's also the fact that instability is more expensive than stability, and the time value of money, that means even if the men eventually do pay, it's worth less when it's delivered late and sporadically. A guaranteed mechanism would prevent this.

But I'm not convinced a government bureaucracy is the solution to anything being too slow and erratic. Could private insurance do the same thing? Assume several companies offer child support insurance: they pay the mother the court mandated $N, and the husband has to pay $N + the insurance premium. I would allow negotiation such that the man could offer the woman more child support in exchange for going without insurance- but since people tend to marry (and sleep with) people their own level of maturity, the men most likely to skip out on child support are most likely to have bred with women inclined to forgo insurance. Do we allow them to change courses mid-stream? That's hardly insurance.

There's also the issue of choosing insurance companies- the payer will want the cheapest one, the recipient will want the one that's easiest to work with. And given how some divorces go, some recipients will choose the most expensive one just to spite their ex. We could make the insurance payments the responsibility of the recipient, with a possible increase in child support to pay for it, but since rates will presumably be higher for payers who are more likely to be delinquent, that will still punish the recipient for the payers irresponsibility.

But I really can't see making insurance, or government mediation, mandatory. The government is slow and disorganized. Had my parents divorced, I know my dad would have been more timely and reliable than any government or private company, because he loves me and my brother and wants us to be taken care of. He's not the only one.

I can't see a lot of bad coming from making these options available. It's possible that the existence of insurance would make people more callous towards recipients who don't get their support, but it's also possible this will free up law enforcement to go after dead beats more vigorously, or even that insurance companies will invest in increasing the enforcement rate.

*I assume she'd be fine with the reverse as well. For ease of discussion I'm going to use men as the example child support payers and women as receivers, because that's 99% of what happens, but everything I say would apply in reverse, or to homosexual couples.

**Newt Gingrich did this to one of his ex-wives, to the point that her church held a fund raising drive to keep her and their children from starving. I'm pretty sure this is not the ex-wife he served with divorce papers the day after her cancer surgery, but I could be wrong.


pktechgirlbackup: (Default)

May 2014

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