Tina K. Russell

March 31, 2008

Awesome Transsexuals, Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 7:52 pm

Best of Times, Worst of Times: Kate Craig-Wood – Times Online

Kate Craig-Wood, 31, is a finalist in the BlackBerry Women in Technology Awards and managing director of her own IT company. Born Robert Hardy Craig-Wood, she underwent gender reassignment and officially became a woman in 2006.

Best of luck!

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Thirty Percent of Americans

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 7:49 pm

‘With a Few More Brains …’ – New York Times

Ten days ago, I noted the reckless assertion of Barack Obama’s former pastor that the United States government had deliberately engineered AIDS to kill blacks, but I tried to put it in context by citing a poll showing that 30 percent of African-Americans believe such a plot is at least plausible.

White readers expressed shock (and a hint of smugness) at these delusions, but the sad reality is that conspiracy theories and irrationality aren’t a black problem. They are an American problem.

Nicholas Kristof, one of my favorite columnists, defends intelligence and calls for us to confront the odd stigma against intellectualism in America. Thank you! I love my country, but we could all use a few more brains.

(Maybe we could, I don’t know… overhaul our system of education… what do you think? Oh, and “No Child Left Behind” has not been an acceptable answer.)

What are the odds of that?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 7:38 pm

A Journey to Baseball’s Alternate Universe – New York Times

[Baseball’s] most mythic achievement is Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, a feat that has never come even close to being matched. Fans and scientists alike, including Edward M. Purcell, a Nobel laureate in physics, and Stephen Jay Gould, the evolutionary biologist, have described the streak as well-nigh impossible.

In a fit of scientific skepticism, we decided to calculate how unlikely Joltin’ Joe’s achievement really was. Using a comprehensive collection of baseball statistics from 1871 to 2005, we simulated the entire history of baseball 10,000 times in a computer. In essence, we programmed the computer to construct an enormous set of parallel baseball universes, all with the same players but subject to the vagaries of chance in each one.

To tease out the meaningful lessons from random effects (fluky streaks that happen by luck), we redid the whole thing 10,000 times. In each of these simulated histories, somebody holds the record for the longest hitting streak. We tabulated who that player was, when he did it, and how long his streak was.

And suddenly the unlikely becomes likely: we get a very long streak each time we run baseball history.

This is a very important statistical lesson: somebody has to have the longest hitting streak in baseball history, and it makes sense that it would be a talented player like DiMaggio. A similar logic plays into the “birthday problem”: most people would be surprised to know that, in a room of 23 people, there’s a slightly greater chance than not that two people have the same birthday. The thing is, when you turn that question around, it becomes: what are the odds that no two people share a birthday, that each person’s is unique? Then you realize that the odds are not one in ~365¼ (the chance that one person has a specific, arbitrary birthday), but more like one in two (the chance that someone in the room has anyone else’s birthday). These odds increase exponentially the more people you add, because more people means more birthdays and more possible birthday matches.

This is important because a lot of fallacious arguments are based on a loose understanding of statistics. (Here’s an example. Here’s another.) Remember that “unlikely” is not the same thing as “impossible,” and a curious statistic is not necessarily a definite trend.

A Winner is U

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 7:19 pm

TippingPoint | DVLabs | PWN to OWN: Final Day (and another winner!)

Ubuntu, that is! From the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter:

CanSecWest PWN2OWN 2008 contest had laptops with various operating systems: VAIO VGN-TZ37CN running Ubuntu 7.10, Fujitsu U810 running Vista Ultimate SP1, and a MacBook Air running OSX 10.5.2. All in typical client configurations with typical user configurations. Anyone who could expose vulnerabilities on one of the machines, could keep it.

At the end of the last day of the contest, only the Sony VAIO laptop running Ubuntu was left standing, and unhacked.

Ubuntu is not only secure, it is easy-to-use, powerful, and generally awesome. And I’m pimping it, so you know it’s good. http://www.ubuntu.com/

March 29, 2008

On Desperation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 1:13 am

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Hands Out Cars – New York Times

The joke there is so easy, I can’t even be bothered to try.

Shed a tear… or two

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:43 am

Palestinians Fear Two-Tier Road System – New York Times

BEIT SIRA, West Bank — Ali Abu Safia, mayor of this Palestinian village, steers his car up one potholed road, then another, finding each exit blocked by huge concrete chunks placed there by the Israeli Army. On a sleek highway 100 yards away, Israeli cars whiz by.

“They took our land to build this road, and now we can’t even use it,” Mr. Abu Safia says bitterly, pointing to the highway with one hand as he drives with the other. “Israel says it is because of security. But it’s politics.”

That is just gross. As much as I can sympathize with the plight of the Israeli people, attacked with guns and rockets by ruthless terrorists, that’s merely a convenient excuse for the government to build a highway on Palestinian land and then restrict it to Israeli nationals and kick Palestinian citizens to the curb. Apparently, the Israeli government is okay with keeping Palestine in the kind of economic hole that breeds terrorism and prevents peace. It’s an entirely unstable situation that this two-tier highway is exacerbating.

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March 28, 2008

On reality

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 11:47 pm

Turning the Spotlight on McCain – New York Times

To the Editor:

It would be nice if one of the charmed-by-McCain reporters whom Neal Gabler describes would ask him the following question and tell us his answer.

“If winning in Iraq is absolutely critical to American security, will you raise taxes to pay for the victory?” If his answer is yes, the follow-up question could be: “Whose taxes?” If the answer is no, the follow-up question could be: “From whom are you going to borrow the money?”

Charles Adams
Newark, Del., March 27, 2008

Ah, thank you.

March 27, 2008

Awesome Cissexuals, Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 2:14 pm

BBC NEWS | Americas | Castro champions gay rights in Cuba

There is a Castro who is fighting to introduce radical changes in Cuba.

Not the new president, Raul, although he has promised to push through “structural and conceptual” changes to this communist island in the Caribbean.

It is Raul’s daughter, Mariela Castro.

As head of the government-funded National Centre for Sex Education, she is trying to change people’s attitudes towards minority groups in the community.

She is currently attempting to get the Cuban National Assembly to adopt what would be among the most liberal gay and transsexual rights law in Latin America.

The proposed legislation would recognise same-sex unions, along with inheritance rights. It would also give transsexuals the right to free sex-change operations and allow them to switch the gender on their ID cards, with or without surgery.

That is… awesome.

I’m certainly no fan of the brothers Castro or the autocratic post-revolutionary regime. I can say, however, that this woman kicks ass.

On the effects of xenophobia

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:18 am

A Foolish Immigration Purge – New York Times

Leave it to the Bush administration to throw thousands of law-abiding American workers and companies off a cliff in perilous economic times.

That would be the effect of its decision to press ahead with a bad idea: to force businesses to fire employees whose names don’t match the Social Security database. The purge is part of a campaign — along with scattershot workplace raids and the partial border fence — to make a show of tackling the broken immigration system.

The Social Security Administration was set up to administer benefits, not to enforce immigration laws. There are many illegal immigrants who use fake IDs, but the sheer abundance of errors — the result of name changes, misspellings and other mix-ups — preclude their use for an immigration crackdown. Native-born workers will pay the price for these mistakes, but the foreign born also will suffer, because they are especially at risk of errors from inconsistent spellings, mistranslations and other language issues.

And us transsexuals will be at risk… we could get fired for “no match” letters arising from inconsistent or outdated documentation. Since there’s no federal law against discrimination for gender identity, it’s even more of a risk. We need to stop this misguided plan before it starts.

March 25, 2008

Ohhhh, damn

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 6:25 pm

White House Offers Grim Outlook for Medicare – New York Times

The Bush administration issued a grim report on the financial outlook for Medicare and Social Security on Tuesday, but said that, by two important measures, the condition of the programs had not deteriorated since last spring.

The new reports, like those issued last April, said that Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund would be exhausted in 2019, while Social Security’s reserves would be depleted in 2041.

Now we can look forward to part 2, in which Bush unveils a wacky plan he says will somehow cut costs but will really privatize as much as possible, so as to leave citizens with no collective bargaining power. Whatever he can get done as a lame duck–which is very little–he can change the debate substantially because part 3 will involve lots of right-wing bloviating that the system is broken and won’t be there when you need it! We can then look forward to the talking point of “Medicare’s strained as it is! Think of what will happen… if we expanded it to include everyone!” This is, of course, like saying, “gosh, my coffee company’s profit margins are razor-thin here in Seattle… we couldn’t take the strain if we went national!” Expect to hear this talking point precisely because it needs no basis in reality.

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