Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Craziest Website of Them All

This is a rich, rich category with many worthy nominees. There are Holocaust deniers, space alien abductees, Raelians, and Michael Jackson. No one has read all the crazy websites, and I could be convinced that there are even nuttier ones out there that I have not met yet. But my nominee can certainly hold its own on a level playing field. Especially since they only believe in level playing fields, since they think the earth is flat. That gem, though, is only the beginning of the elaborate theory propounded -- at great length, and in all sincerity -- by

The non-moving Earth

& anti-evolution web page of

The Fair Education Foundation, Inc.

I cannot reproduce the whole effect, since the webpage changes fonts, font sizes, and colors within almost every line.

The summary of their position is this:

"The Earth is not rotating...nor is it going around the sun.
The universe is not one ten trillionth the size we are told.
Today’s cosmology fulfills an anti-Bible religious plan disguised as "science".
The whole scheme from Copernicanism to Big Bangism is a factless lie.
Those lies have planted the Truth-killing virus of evolutionism
in every aspect of man’s "knowledge" about the Universe, the Earth, and Himself."

Friday, March 02, 2007

Let 'Em Sleep on the Floor

The New York Times has a story about couples being driven from their beds by their young children. Apparently there is a thriving business in the upper middle class for "sleep consultants" who come up with conditioning regimes to get the little darlings to stay in their own princess and airplane fantasy beds. None of which the tired couples in the article found very helpful. Mostly, the parents report giving up fighting their kids for the big bed – the parents get used to going off to the children's beds in the middle of the night and sleeping there. One of the predictable effects of this strategy is that the couples do not have sex very often.

Faced with the same problem, Mrs. G. and I hit upon a different solution when our offspring were little, which is cheaper and lazier than the sleep consultant approach. For most of the pre-school years, we did not have an "up bed," but instead slept on a mattress on the floor. When the kids came in for comfort in the middle of the night, they would be content to sleep on the floor next to us, with only a few inches of elevation separating us. The inches were few, but precious: they meant the difference between a good night's sleep for mom and dad, and wearing nightly interruptions.

When the youngest was a reliable sleeper, everyone got up beds.

I don't know if this will work for you; I give it to you as free advice, and would welcome comparative stories.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Rich are Different – They are Sluttier

A new study by Hannah Shaw Grove and Russ Alan Prince cited in MarketWatch reports that rich people have more sex, of more kinds, with more people, in more expensive places, than other people. Rich people think having money means having better sex than other people. Moreover, rich women are especially likely to think this: 84% of the women in the survey agreed, versus 63% of the men.

This sex does not seem to be constrained by marriage, either. While they are as married as the average American (85% of the total rich group are now married), they have affairs at much higher rates: 53% of the rich men, and a whopping 73% of the rich women admit to (brag about?) extramarital affairs. This is compared to about a quarter of average men, and half that rate for average women.

I think the most disturbing finding in this report is that 93% of the rich women think that higher-quality sex is the biggest benefit overall to being rich.

Wealth does not corrupt necessarily or absolutely, but it doesn't seem to be a big aid to one's morals.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Breastfeeding Helps You Rise in Social Class

This is an amazing result. I am almost reluctant to report it, though, because no one has a very good idea why it is true.

British researchers have been following a large group of babies born in the late 1930s into their 70s. There was not a big difference in class among breastfeeders in those days (as there is now, when breastfeeding is skewed toward the middle class). Yet breastfed babies were 41% more likely than other kids to move up a class, net of their initial class and family income. Breastfed kids were even 16% more likely to move up a class than their own bottlefed siblings.

One thing not reported in the press account: whether birth order and family size mattered. My best guess is that first-borns were more likely to be breastfed. This might explain the intra-sibling difference. First-borns would then be more likely to move up in class for a variety of reasons, not least because their parents wanted them to. It may also be that all the kids were more likely to be breastfed in smaller families. We know that later-born children in large families are more likely to have lower IQs and lower rates of upward mobility. If smaller families were more likely to breastfeed all the kids, and less likely to have low-achieving later-borns, this might account for the main finding.

Just a guess, though. Maybe La Leche League might want to invest in some research grants.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Old Guys Have Fertility Problems, Too

Old women can't have kids. Older mothers risk more birth defects in kids. These facts are well known. Now research is accumulating that older men are less likely to have kids at all, and older fathers are more likely to have kids with birth defects. The numbers are not as dramatic as for women, and the risks are not as great. Eggs, after all, are not made new, but keep aging from the mother's birth. New sperm are created all the time. But the organs for making sperm keep aging, and they wear down and make mistakes more often in later years.

To put some numbers to these risks, the children of younger fathers run a 3% risk of birth defects. With fathers over 45, the risk rises to about 4%. This is still not a large risk, but a huge percentage increase. Likewise, autism is rare, but there seems to be more of it than there used to be. One reason might be that older fathers are more than 5 times as likely to produce autistic children compared to younger (under 30) fathers. One of the most specific results reported comes from a large-scale Israeli study of schizophrenia, which found a risk of 1 in 141 in children of fathers under 25, 1 in 99 for fathers 30 to 35, and 1 in 47 for fathers 50 and older.

The research on the fertility of older fathers is just beginning, compared to studies of older mothers. There is not even the same level of speculative theory about why male fertility declines in number and quality. Still, I think it is already clear that both men and women – and their children – are better off if a couple can have their kids in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties.

Monday, February 26, 2007

DePauw Sorority Shows It Has Class When Its National Office Does Not

The Delta Zeta sorority at DePauw University was having some recruiting problems – the normal ups and downs of Greek life. With falling numbers, the national office was a little concerned. With the 100th anniversary of the chapter's founding coming up, the nationals wanted to more than fix the problem – they wanted to reinvigorate the chapter. So some officers from the national office came to interview every member of the DePauw chapter. They suggested that the women dress up. They wanted to see who was really committed to recruitment.

When the national officers left, the sent form letters to 23 of the 35 women living in the sorority house notifying them that they had been moved to alumna status, and should vacate the house. The women who were evicted included all the fat and non-white women. The ones they kept were white and pretty. The chapter president was one of those tossed out. According to the women who were sent off, some of the ones kept by the nationals were not very active in the life of the chapter to begin with.

To their credit, six of the 12 women who were asked to stay also resigned in solidarity with their ejected sisters. Alumni, parents, other students, and many faculty members protested. The Delta Zeta national officers who conducted the purge would not comment, while the official responses from the sorority have been mealy-mouthed.

I agree that it is time for a big shake-up at Delta Zeta – not at the DePauw chapter, but at national headquarters.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Are Episcopalians Anglicans?

The leaders of the worldwide Anglican communion just released a document chastising the Episcopal Church of the USA for ordaining a practicing gay bishop. Even the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who supports gay ordination, signed the document, calling for a season of restraint before either side issued further provocations. She is getting grief from some American Episcopal leaders for not fighting this censure. In an even more extraordinary concession, Bishop Jefferts Schori agreed to the creation of a non-geographic diocese for traditionalist Episcopal churches, to be overseen by a commission of foreign bishops.

To rewind a couple of steps, when the Church of England was considering naming a celibate gay man as bishop, the Archbishop of Canterbury eventually asked him to withdraw his name, rather than create controversy in the Anglican communion. When non-celibate gay priest V. Gene Robinson was being considered as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, the Archbishop of Canterbury asked him to withdraw his name, as well, for the good of the worldwide Anglican communion. The American, however, refused, on the grounds that it was inevitable that his side would win the struggle, so the conflict might as well come now.

The Archbishop of Nairobi, Peter Akinola, presides over a church that is about ten times larger than the Episcopal Church, and has more active members on any given Sunday than the mother church in England does. He has emerged as the de facto leader of the third world Anglican church – where most of the world's Anglicans are. The worldwide Anglican communion has disapproved of the American church for decades, but has put up with them because Anglicans are polite, and because the Americans provide quite a bit of money.

The limits of Anglican patience seem to have been reached, however, The showdown is upon us. The Episcopal Church must decide whether to follow the rules of the Anglican Communion, or get booted out.