Saturday, April 21, 2007

Virtual Infidelity

The MSNBC survey on infidelity that I wrote about yesterday has a companion piece on people who have affairs in virtual worlds, especially Second Life. The opening story is about a torrid lesbian romance between two avatars of people who in real life are married to someone else. More interesting, one of the "lesbians" is the avatar of a man, and perhaps the other one is, too. The man behind one of the characters thinks it isn't really cheating because, while he is in love with the other character, the sex is not real. This brings us back to yesterday's pie chart -- men don't mind the straying love as much as the straying sex. The odds are good, though, that the Second Life player's real wife would resent the love (if she knew about it) even is the sex isn't physically consumated in the material plane.

Very dangerous stuff, affairs. Even the virtual ones are real.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Men Hate Sexual Cheating, Women Hate Emotional Cheating

MSNBC is reporting an interesting survey of infidelity. I can't tell if this is a scientific survey, but its main findings are consistent with scientific surveys. They have a nifty graphic, shown here, that starkly demonstrates the difference between most men and women over just what is wrong with infidelity:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Amend FERPA – Tell Parents if Their Kid is Sick

One good thing that might come of the Virginia Tech tragedy is the momentum to amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to let the family in on some crucial information that schools are now obliged to keep private. If a college student like shooter Seung Cho is deemed by the college psychologists to be seriously mentally ill, even a "danger to himself and others," the university is forbidden by federal law to tell his parents. This should change.

Maybe nothing could have been done to keep Seung Cho from hurting someone. His parents, who appear to be quiet immigrants with a limited command of English, have said nothing publicly, so it is hard to even guess what they might have been able to do. Still, parents are more likely to be able to reach a disturbed kid than a university that is hamstrung by bureaucratic regulations. Teachers and students did bring Cho to the attention of university mental health authorities, and they did what they could. But the university could not compel Cho to seek help. And they were forbidden from contacting his parents, the people most likely to get their son into care and out of the way of harming others.

Yeah, sure, there will be some cases in which the parents are the cause of the kid's mental problems. Notifying them might make it worse. So give the college mental health folks the discretion to decide when the family should be notified. But Congress should not prejudge that parents should never be notified that their kids need help. Privacy should not prevent help when it is most needed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Liviu Librescu, Heroic Professor

A heroic moment within the Virginia Tech tragedy was the way in which Prof. Liviu Librescu held the door shut against the killer so his students could escape out the window. Librescu was killed by a shot through the door, but his class was saved.

Prof. Librescu had survived the Nazis in Romania during the Second World War, and then the communists who succeeded them. Ironically, he was killed, in effect, by the libertarians in his adopted land of the free.

Among the 30 people murdered in Norris Hall, five were professors. None abandoned their posts. At least one, Liviu Librescu, sacrificed all for his students. As a professor myself and a member of the academic community, I honor them.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The First Virginia Tech Murders Would Have Shut Down a College to Grieve

The tragedy at Virginia Tech is unfolding as I write. The first incident seemed to involve a girlfriend and her RA being shot by an irate boyfriend. Then, two hours later, another sixty or so students were shot in a classroom building, about 30 of whom died. I don't want to second guess the administration on what they should have done to stop the classroom shooting rampage.

I am surprised, though, that a murder of two students was not reason to stop classes and bring everyone together to tell the facts and console the many grieving. I am sure that that is what would happen at Centre. Perhaps Virginia Tech is so large and anonymous that it does not shut down when one or two of their number are murdered.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Twice as Many Cuban Immigrants are Secular as Mexican Immigrants

About 14% of Cuban immigrants report that they are not religious, compared to 7% of immigrants from Mexico.

The general story in the New York Times argues that America makes people more materialistic. This is likely to be true. Still, that doesn't explain why the Cubans and Mexicans would respond to the new environment so differently.

Two ideas seem likely to me. First, Cubans are less religious to begin with, from decades of socialism. Second, Cuban immigrants are more likely to be middle class to begin with than Mexicans, and therefore start further on the road to irreligion. I incline to the latter view.