Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"about one-sixth of eating disorders can be blamed on cultural environment"

This interview (found via this salon article) makes some very good points. This is the quote people are talking about:
Therapists pretty much agree that there are three main causes of eating disorders, and most of us who get them have a combination of the three. One is your genetics. Second is your physiology, like the biology of your actual brain—your personality. Some people are incredibly resilient and slough off difficult messages; other people are not. In my book I call them Velcro; things stick to them. I’m Velcro. The third thing is environment. Environment is broken into two parts: the environment of your home, what your mom and dad said to you, the behaviors they modeled. The other part of environment is culture. So about one-sixth of eating disorders can be blamed on cultural environment, like the pictures we’re shown. That’s what I mean when I say skinny models don’t cause eating disorders. I just think that’s completely oversimplified and kind of ridiculous. If we magically were able to suddenly change the images we see in order to be diverse in all ways, gradually that part of the pressure would relieve itself. But it wouldn’t relieve that need of a girl to control her food intake because she can’t control her life.
A lot of this must be oversimplifying. Genetics and physiology are intertwined, so any attempt to separate them as causes must be a little arbitrary. She also exaggerates her own position when she jumps from "about one-sixth of eating disorders can be blamed on cultural environment" to "I say skinny models don’t cause eating disorders."

Still, I think there is something basically right here. It jibes also with the stories reported in conjunction with the trend of exporting the American style of mental illness. (See also here.) People in Hong Kong used to develop a form of anorexia different than the American model. They refused to eat, but not because they thought they were fat. However as more American culture got picked up in the Chinese speaking world, the way people talked about the illness changed. It became something about women wanting to look thin when it wasn't before.

The fact that a style of mental illness can be based in a culture and then exported is fascinating in itself. But what is also interesting is that we can talk about anorexia separately from its current cultural connotations. Even minus the skinny models, people can develop pathological desire not to eat.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Kaptur vs. Kucinich.

Redistricting has pitted two of the House's most progressive democrats against each other in the democratic primary for our district: Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur. Kaptur is from Toledo. Kucinich is from Cleveland. The legislature has gerrymandered a district that includes every progressive household alon I-90 between the two cities. We have to decide whom to vote for.

Kucinich is well known on the national stage. Kaptur I know less about. But...

She has a lot more seniority (=power) in the House than Kucinich. In fact she ranks 25 in seniority and sits on the Appropriations committee. Kucinich is 125th, and has no good committee posts. The Kaptur campaign is playing this as a "workhorse vs. showhorse" contest.

Kaptur has progressive bone fides. She was named "most valuable house member" in 2008 by The Nation, and is a member of the House Progressive Caucus.

On the other hand, Kucinich has a slightly more progressive voting record than Kaptur, particularly on peace and civil liberties issues. Plus he does things like introduce articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney.

Kucinich is has also made noises about a Cleveland issue that doesn't seem to be on Kaptur's radar: the soon-to-collapse-catastrophically Inner Belt Bridge. The bridge is the same age and design as one that collapsed in Minnesota recently, and generally has lanes closed to decrease the amount of weight on it at any given time.

So, we've got our mail-in ballots, and need to figure this out.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Bleg: Web hosting for my version of a logic textbook.

I want to create a simple webpage to promote a version of a free logic textbook that I have been working on. Basically, I want to have a dedicated website to host the .pdf file for the text, the LaTeX source file, some text promoting the virtues of the book and open access textbooks in general, supporting textbook materials, and maybe some tools for collaboration. And I should have an easy to remember URL.

I was thinking that Wordpress would be the easiest software to use. What should I do for hosting? Pick the cheapest host that partners with Wordpress? Will there be much of a learning curve with Wordpress?

The last time I created a website was almost 10 years ago, and I just wrote something in HTML and transferred it to some host using FTP software. Can you still build websites like that?