Monday, February 13, 2012

The Stymphalian Birds

Whitney Houston's death has made me cry.  I don't usually cry over celebrities, but she was inspirational to me in 1985 and beyond.

Thanks for the music.

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I read an article in the Boston Globe yesterday that made me sigh.  It's about judges using their, um, judgment and not always applying the suggested penalties for child pornography.  Because judges secretly support child pornographers?  No.  Because many judges realize that in many cases the suggested sentences are too harsh.  43% of the time, if the Globe is to be believed.  You know what that means?  In 57% of the cases they do agree.

But why might the Globe not be so believable?  Because in this article they quote someone who authored a study of sex offenders in a federal prison who had been convicted because of child pornography.  In this study, they found that 85% of their sample admitted in therapy that they had had sexual contact with children.  Before their incarceration, 74% had denied that.  These statistics were used to bolster the argument that pornography is frequently associated with "in person" crimes.

I mean, yeah, those are some devastating statistics.  It's just that the sample used in this study was 155 prisoners.  In one prison.  You know the old saying, the plural of anecdote isn't data?  Well, if your sample is that small, I think we're using more data than anecdote.

This reminded me of the Australian study of obese men and women that's been used to show that losing weight and keeping it off is really hard.  (This study was referenced in a recent New York Times Magazine article.)  It totally is- especially if you're consuming 500 to 550 calories per day for ten weeks as part of the study.  (FYI, just about every reputable person who has ever spoken about safe weight loss has advised using 1200 calories per day as the absolute minimum, and most will say 1500.  That's also only a little bit more than concentration and slave labor camps fed their prisoners.  But I digress.)  This is not actually the biggest problem with this study.  Again, sample size: the study started out with 50 participants, but only 34 made it to week 10.  Do you like crunching numbers?  That means that 32% dropped out.  But don't hurt yourself, because I'm not putting any credence in anything a study that small says.

Hey New York Times and Boston Globe- ever heard of fact-checking?  Ever heard of standards?

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Before I read the announcement about Whitney Houston on Saturday, my kids watched The Parent Trap remake.  You know, the one with the late Natasha Richardson, Dennis Quaid and a young Lindsay Lohan.  I sigh every time I watch that movies.  We saw it when it came out and all of us (then just three) liked it.  Quaid and Richardson were romantic, and Lohan was adorable.

Every time I think about who Lindsay Lohan has become, I think about this movie and I reflect that it was only a few years after this that the tabloids were sticking cameras in her face and following her around to catch every idiot screw up idiot kids are prone to making when they have lots of money, no supervision and tons of attention.  Adults might be fair game when they act like jackasses, but we should have some decency when we're dealing with kids.  To those of you who would say that she profited from the negative attention, I'm absolutely positive you're wrong.

As I said, standards.

Deb in the City

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