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sociology

The Economist: IT WAS called a “national dialogue”, but to western eyes it was a strange kind of conversation. From June 13th-15th, in Medina, Saudi Arabian women and men discussed how women's lives could be improved. The women, however, were invisible to the men, except on a television screen.arab_scarfFrom kindergarten to university to the few professions they are permitted to pursue, as well as in restaurants and banks and in other public places, the female half of Saudi Arabia's population is kept strictly apart. Women are not allowed to drive a car, sail a boat or fly a plane, or to appear outdoors with hair, wrists or ankles exposed, or to travel without permission from a male guardian. A wife who angers her husband risks being “hanged”; that is, suspended in legal limbo, often penniless and trapped indoors, until such time as he deigns to grant a divorce. And then she will lose custody of her children... Click here to read an excellent in-depth story on the current situation for women in the arab world.
arabworld_chart
Great, approximately 50% of respondents considered the improvement of women's rights a high priority. But why is the spread between male and female respondents so low and why isn't the share of female anti-status-quo respondents higher? Yesterday at a party organized by exchange students from Hungary I spoke to an exchange student from Iran*. Since she was dressed to kill I expected that, after I asked her what she thinks about the current situation of women in Iran, she would launch a tirade against her government. Ha ha. She said everything is ok and that she can't see any reason for a change. Ha ha. I also remember a conversation with an exchange student from China the very same night and she said that her government is ok too... thanks for asking. Tiananmen Square? "I don't know much about that, but maybe they over-reacted a little".

*Despite enjoying greater freedoms than many other Islamic countries, Iranian women are treated as second class citizens. In the courts they are worth half the value of men, have fewer rights in divorce and child custody and need their husband's permission to work or travel abroad <source>.

rosesLove and dating are increasingly high-tech affairs—with online winking, pre-date résumés, and “compatibility matching systems.” But is this new world of full-disclosure and Ph.D.-certified matchmaking good for the spontaneity of romance? Or the permanence of marriage? Christine Rosen explores the hopes and miseries of love in the information age.

Tidbits:
<>The pursuit of love in its modern, technological guise has its roots in the decline of courtship and is indelibly marked by that loss. Courtship as it once existed—a practice that assumed adherence to certain social conventions, and recognition of the differences, physical and emotional, between men and women—has had its share of pleased obituarists. The most vigorous have been feminists, the more radical of whom appear to take special delight in quelling notions of romantic love. Recall Andrea Dworkin’s infamous equation of marriage and rape, or Germaine Greer’s terrifying rant in The Female Eunuch: “Love, love, love—all the wretched cant of it, masking egotism, lust, masochism, fantasy under a mythology of sentimental postures, a welter of self-induced miseries and joys, blinding and masking the essential personalities in the frozen gestures of courtship, in the kissing and the dating and the desire, the compliments and the quarrels which vivify its barrenness.” Much of this work is merely an unpersuasive attempt to swaddle basic human bitterness in the language of female empowerment. But such sentiments have had their effect on our culture’s understanding of courtship.<>

~~~

<>Like the steady work of the wrecking ball, our culture’s nearly-compulsive demand for personal revelation, emotional exposure, and sharing of feelings threatens the fragile edifice of newly-forming relationships. Transparency and complete access are exactly what you want to avoid in the early stages of romance. Successful courtship—even successful flirtation—require the gradual peeling away of layers, some deliberately constructed, others part of a person’s character and personality, that make us mysteries to each other.

Among Pascal’s minor works is an essay, “Discourse on the Passion of Love,” in which he argues for the keen “pleasure of loving without daring to tell it.” “In love,” Pascal writes, “silence is of more avail than speech…there is an eloquence in silence that penetrates more deeply than language can.” Pascal imagined his lovers in each other’s physical presence, watchful of unspoken physical gestures, but not speaking. Only gradually would they reveal themselves. Today such a tableau seems as arcane as Kabuki theater; modern couples exchange the most intimate details of their lives on a first date and then return home to blog about it.<>

Addendum:
For is love anything else than a kind of curiosity? I think not; and what makes me certain is that when the curiosity is satisfied the love disappears. -- Giacomo Casanova [Memoirs Of Casanova — Volume 17: Return To Italy]

Shoplifting Epidemic in Princeton:
PRINCETON BOROUGH, N.J. -- Authorities say Princeton University students are increasingly being caught shoplifting from the school store, with 10 Ivy League students arrested since March. Twelve students have been arrested since the installation of new security cameras in the Princeton University Store several months ago, according to a published report.

Municipal Prosecutor Marc Citron told The Times of Trenton that the shoplifting is the university's "little secret." <> Citron said the arrests have made him add to his explanations of why people shoplift. He said he used to have two reasons: people stealing to buy drugs and people with psychological problems. "And No. 3 is the Princeton University student and I am not quite sure what category they fall into," he said. "What troubles me is that some of the students feel that they are so privileged, that they have the privilege (to steal)." He said students during their court appearances have been unapologetic. <source>
via Poor and Stupid

Want more? Here we go:
CAMPUS VANDALISM - LETTER TO STUDENT BODY FROM THE USG UNDERGRADUATE LIFE COMMITTEE

A concern regarding the health & wellness of student life has been brought to the attention of the Undergraduate Life Committee. We are concerned that acts of vandalism on Princeton’s campus, particularly involving golf carts, are becoming increasingly frequent.

Golf cart vandalism on this campus has become endemic. During peak times, an appalling 1-2 golf carts per week must be sent to the shop because their tires are slashed, their electronics are tampered with, etc. Students often attempt to steal the golf carts. Some owners of the golf carts have irresponsibly driven them under the influence of alcohol and crashed. A student even drove a golf cart down the stairs of Blair Arch! It is astounding that a high percentage of the MTV program’s operating budget goes to post-vandalism golf cart repair. Moreover, such vandalism poses a serious threat to the well being of students who need them. For example, a student with a newly broken leg faces a serious and painful burden of navigating our campus on crutches because other students thought it would be funny to turn over her golf cart.

Other general acts of campus vandalism have also been increasing. There continues to be a great deal of intentional damage to university property. Just this year, there have been up to 75 cases of vandalism. Associate Director of Public Safety, Donald Reichling stated that he has "never caught a student who was sober," when investigating an act of vandalism. Examples of vandalism include: throwing furniture through windows, stomping the flowers in Prospects Gardens, smashing the prox card readers on the doors (costing thousands of dollars in repair) and keying of cars. In addition to this vandalism, students continue to kick over trash cans, leaving them for their janitors to clean up on Monday mornings. <source>
I haven't done such things for quite a long time... I guess I am getting old ;-( .

iqscoresA table purporting to show IQ by state swept through the blogosphere last week mostly because liberal bloggers enjoyed trumpeting the high correlation it showed between high-IQ and voting for Gore in 2000. Now look what I found in the print edition of The Economist. Ouch. I guess one need not be a statistician to see that the variation in the test-scores is way too high to be true (this spread would have been worth a cover story...). As other bloggers have already pointed out, the book "IQ and the Wealth of Nations" (mentioned as the source of the data) is about nations, not states (it contains a table listing average IQs for 81 nations, based on 168 national IQ studies, almost all of them published in refereed scientific journals. Here is the table (scroll down) and here is the book review).

via Marginal Revolution

ad IQ-Testing: Today Austrian game theorist Ulrich Berger sent me via email his solution to this problem. Thank you! Instead of posting the simple and elegant solution (the guys at the High IQ Society don't appreciate that), I recommend looking at this site... ;-D.

einbruchThe Economist: It is a cliché to say that crime spreads like a disease, but previous work by Dr Bowers and her colleagues found that this is exactly how crime does spread. Using statistical techniques developed to study the transmission of infections, they found that burglaries cluster in space and time in predictable ways. For example, properties within 400 metres of a burgled home, particularly those on the same side of the road, are at an increased risk of being broken into for up to two months after the initial incident. Using these and other findings, the team created algorithms that predict where criminals will strike next, and then used those algorithms to generate “prospective hot-spot maps”. These divide an area into 50-metre squares—a level of resolution chosen because 50 metres is a typical line-of-sight for a police officer in an urban area—and give a crime forecast for each square.

In their paper, Dr Bowers and her colleagues reveal the results of a study of burglaries in Merseyside, in northern England. Using historical data, they pitted their predictive modelling method against two traditional crime-mapping systems. They found that their method successfully “hindcasted” 62-80% of burglaries. The traditional techniques, by contrast, hindcasted only 46% of those incidents. The next step is to field-test the method, to see how effective it is in the hands of real policemen and women, when the predictions would need to be updated on a shift-by-shift basis. Each shift would add the previous shift's burglaries to the historical data, and drop the most ancient incidents from the database, before re-running the model.

More crime modelling stuff:
How do criminals locate? Crime and spatial dependence in Minas Gerais
(Frédéric Puech, March 2004)
Double Length Artificial Regressions for Testing Spatial Dependence
(Badi Baltagi & Dong Li, 2001)
Powerpoint-Presentation on Double Length Artificial Regressions
(Michael Stastny, 2002)

thecorporationThe Economist: "To the anti-globalisers, the corporation is a devilish instrument of environmental destruction, class oppression and imperial conquest. But is it also pathologically insane? That is the provocative conclusion of an award-winning documentary film, called “The Corporation”, coming soon to a cinema near you. The main message of the film is that, through their psychopathic pursuit of profit, firms make good people do bad things. <snip>

Although the moviemakers claim ownership of the company-as-psychopath idea it predates them by a century, and rightfully belongs, in its full form, to Max Weber, the German sociologist. For Weber, the key form of social organisation defining the modern age was bureaucracy. Bureaucracies have flourished because their efficient and rational division and application of barcodelabour is powerful. But a cost attends this power. As cogs in a larger, purposeful machine, people become alienated from the traditional morals that guide human relationships as they pursue the goal of the collective organisation. There is, in Weber's famous phrase, a “parcelling-out of the soul”. For Weber, the greater potential tyranny lay not with the economic bureaucracies of capitalism, but the state bureaucracies of socialism. The psychopathic national socialism of Nazi Germany, communism of Stalinist Soviet rule and fascism of imperial Japan (whose oppressive bureaucratic machinery has survived well into the modern era) surely bear Weber out. Infinitely more powerful than firms and far less accountable for its actions, the modern state has the capacity to behave even in evolved western democracies as a more dangerous psychopath than any corporation can ever hope to become: witness the environmental destruction wreaked by Japan's construction ministry.

The makers of “The Corporation” counter that the state was not the subject of their film. Fair point. But they have done more than produce a thought-provoking account of the firm. Their film also invites its audience to weigh up the benefits of privatisation versus public ownership. It dwells on the familiar problem of the corporate corruption of politics and regulatory agencies that weakens public oversight of privately owned firms charged with delivering public goods. But that is only half the story. The film has nothing to say about the immense damage that can also flow from state ownership. Instead, there is a misty-eyed alignment of the state with the public interest. Run that one past the people of, say, North Korea."

Source: The lunatic you work for, The Economist

Click here to watch the trailer. Click here to help the poor filmmakers to break even. Here is the link to the volunteer sign-up form (Bad corporations pay at least the minimum-wage...)

Concerning Nike (mentioned in the trailer):
nike

conflictIn the course of the 20th century, mankind experienced some of the most devastating wars of all times. Where did these wars take place? Have some regions experienced more wars than others? Who were the main protagonists in these conflicts? This map gives you the opportunity to answer these questions. It displays wars with at least 1,000 military battle deaths.

via The Presurfer

saudiarabiaRania al-Baz, a well-known TV presenter, said her husband, Mohammed al-Fallatta, beat her so hard earlier this week (he became infuriated when Ms Baz answered the telephone) that he broke her nose and fractured her face in 13 places. The BBC's correspondent Kim Ghattas says this is probably the first time ever that a case of domestic violence has received media coverage in Saudi Arabia. It is a deeply conservative society, where Islamic Sharia law is strictly enforced and where honour and appearances are hugely important. The presence of problems such as domestic violence, rape, paedophilia or Aids is often simply not acknowledged. "It is considered a husband's rights that his wife should obey him," Abeer Mishkhas, of the Saudi English-language newspaper Arab News, told BBC News Online. "This can involve coercion or violence, and we know that the majority of cases of this kind go unreported and unnoticed." More and more Saudi women go to civil courts to request divorces on grounds of violence, Ms Mishkhas says. But they are still not allowed to vote, drive, own a business or travel without permission from a male guardian.

via Butterflies and Wheels

Some time ago, Fernanda Viégas from the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media Lab did a survey on bloggers' expectations of privacy and liability in which The Presurfer and 486 other bloggers participated. The main purpose of the survey was to explore the tension between the 'freedom' experienced by authors in their blog sites and the legal predicaments they are bound to experience as online publishers in the near future.

Some of the findings that came out of the survey are very interesting. Because of things they have written on their blogs, 36% of respondents have gotten in trouble, 34% know other bloggers who have gotten in trouble with family and friends and 12% of respondents know other bloggers who have gotten in legal or professional problems because of things they wrote on their blogs. Other findings are that 63% of bloggers are male, most are between 21 and 30 years of age, 59% have a college/university level and 36% are blogging longer than 2 years. Here's a summary of all the findings.

via The Presurfer (Gerard, please don't sue me for copypasting your post ;-D).

alfrescosexA new sex fad called 'dogging' is sweeping Britain, and it's all thanks to the wonders of technology. | Setting the Boundaries: Tackling public sex environments in country parks. This academic paper on dogging by Dr. Richard Byrne was presented in April 2003 at the Planning Research Conference at Wadham University, Oxford. Byrne has since been interviewed by the BBC, MSNBC, and newspapers across the UK as an authoritative source on the dogging phenomenon.

via GeekPress