Friday, 4 March 2005

Where only one gender has gone before

A couple of interesting things I noticed today are being discussed at Begging to Differ:

  • Today’s New York Times carried a story on unisex bathrooms; I tend to think the solution to this issue (discussed today by Will Baude and Hei Lun, among others) is the spread of unisex, handicapped-accessible/baby changing restrooms, which would seem to be the solution for the gender-confused or gender-transitioning, rather than “desegregation” of bathrooms in general. Incidentally, every story I’ve heard about womens’ restrooms has echoed Amber Taylor’s indication that they tend to be worse than mens’ rooms (initially, I was surprised too); I should ask the custodial staff for an objective evaluation.
  • I learned a new word today: heteronormative, which apparently doesn’t mean that you think diversity is a good thing (i.e. what the word would mean if it were constructed from the actual meaning of the stem “hetero”; more properly, the word should be “heterosexualnormative”). Greg has more if you care. Given my epistemological leanings and the likely composition of the audience, I suspect Ms. Pinkett Smith’s comments were probably more heteropositive or heteroempirical. Or something.

Plug'd again

When it rains, it pours. Thanks to Steven Taylor of PoliBlog for naming Signifying Nothing as one of his three favorite blogs in his interview with Norm Geras.

It's always Martha, Martha, Martha

In honor of Martha Stewart’s release from the big house, Jeff Goldstein has helpfully compiled all of his screencaps of Ms. Stewart’s prison diary (probably NSFW, but it’s Friday night so who cares?).

Movie theaters and price differentials

Tyler Cowen has an intriguing post on movies costing the same, regardless of popularity. As someone who’s been to literally thousands of movies, I have a couple of thoughts.

I think much of the reason for the lack of price differentials has to do with contracts from the studios. They are very protective of their profits, maybe to the point of not maximizing them, even. When the first Star Wars prequel came out six years ago, I read an article that Lucas’s contract stipulated that the movie must play in the four largest theaters (for a certain class of large multiplex) and for four consecutive weeks, regardless of attendance.

When I lived in Illinois, I frequently went to a huge multiplex and noticed that they had a number of theaters of differing sizes. I suspected then, as now, that they created the multiplexes with various theater sizes to allow some flexibility to compensate for the lack of price flexibility. That way movies like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” can run for months on end in a small theater and generate word of mouth. Similarly, popular movies can be moved to smaller theaters as their audience declines.

Another thing I read is that for the first four weeks of a movie’s run, the studio gets around 90% of the box office. This helps account for the outrageous cost of a Coke and popcorn. If the studios allowed the theaters to vary their prices, and share an even cut of the film’s box office over its run, I suspect much of this weirdness would go away and the obsession with blockbusters would disappear. I also suspect that more movies would be profitable if the prices were allowed to vary.

Currently listening to: "Up On Cripple Creek".

McCain-Feingold and the blogosphere

I haven’t had anything to say about the CNet interview with FEC commissioner Brad Smith, so I’m a bit late to the party, but apparently the controversy has a former McCain aide and FEC commissioner trying to respin the story. (þ: InstaPundit).

I Ubuntu, You Ubuntu

I somehow managed to end up with a bastardized Debian unstable/Ubuntu hybrid on my laptop that seems to be working fairly nicely; oddly enough, my original intent was to get Evolution Exchange working again with the Millsaps mail system, but that doesn’t seem to have happened. Except for some minor annoyances, mostly having to do with Ubuntu’s decision to make Python 2.4 its “default” Python, I think it’s pretty nice… particularly the ability to run the GNOME 2.10 prerelease and the X server and xcompmgr for nifty drop-shadows on my windows (the fade effect was too annoyingly slow on my laptop, so I ditched it).

So, basically, Ubuntu is Debian without the FUBAR release process and without me as a maintainer, which I see as two mostly-positive changes.

Round and round we go

Continuing my roundabout theme, today’s Clarion-Ledger reports on construction of a roundabout on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford as part of the North-South Parkway (a.k.a. Gertrude Ford Boulevard) project.

Thinking like a lawyer

Sebastian Holdsclaw has extracted a rather interesting comment from a long thread at Left2Right about judicial interpretation of the Constitution. However, I don’t know if it will get me to abandon my long-held opinion (only reinforced by attempting to teach two entire constitutional law textbooks) that every judicial mode of reasoning is just an excuse for attitudinalism run rampant.

College entrance exams

The Times today also has a piece on the trend of more students taking both the ACT and SAT, due in part to recent changes to the SAT. I found this passage in the article somewhat disturbing, however:

“There’s almost no reason not to take ACT,” said Lisa Jacobson, chief executive of Inspirica, a tutoring and test preparation company in New York. “The only significant reason not to is if a kid is totally stressed out, and doesn’t want to spend another Saturday taking tests.”

Students have nothing to lose by taking the ACT, she and others say, because they can take the test as many times as they want and choose which scores, if any, to send to colleges—a calming option for students with severe test anxieties. In contrast, all SAT scores are sent to all colleges a student applies to. [emphasis mine]

Doesn’t this fact shoot any meaningful comparability between the two tests straight to hell, despite the well-known “equivalency tables” between the two exams?

Where's the Canadian beef?

Today’s New York Times has a piece in the business section looking at the effects of the Canadian beef import ban on both sides of the border—few of which are good unless you’re an American cattle rancher. It seems fairly clear (to me, at least) that the motivation behind those seeking to extend the ban is naked protectionism rather than concern about Americans’ health.

The small bit of silver lining in this is that, unlike on the steel tariffs, the president is on the right side of the issue, although there are many in Congress who aren’t.