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Comment Roundup

May 26th, 2016
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Sometimes I make comments on Facebook or elsewhere that fall somewhere between a regular comment and a full blog post. When I used to have more time I would expand things like this into full posts, but since I don't seem to be getting around to that anymore I'm just going to try collecting some of them here.

Responding to a blog post on disability

"One major example is organizations that encourage people not to donate to programs that raise guide dogs but to donate to cures for blindness instead, on the basis that helping cure blindness is the better course of action."

When I've seen people make an argument like this it's not been "curing people is better than assisting them, so we should only cure" but instead "eye surgery in poor countries is much cheaper than dog training and the two ways of helping people are comparable". For example: NYT: Putting Charities to the Test

This argument from cost effectiveness, with guide dogs as an example, is the only place I've seen this, so I'm not sure: is the author referring to a different objection to guide dogs, are they misremembering the "fund surgery not service animals" arguments, or do they think cost effectiveness is not a relevant consideration in deciding where to donate? [link]

In response to this article on cultural appropriation and weddings:

Whenever I read something like this I feel weird. It's not that I feel threatened or called out by these articles: our wedding drew entirely from our culture (quaker, potluck, contra), I'm not interested in belly dancing, yoga, or eastern martial arts, and in general I really like the culture I grew up in. Instead it's that the people who say "you are white, this is your culture, you should embrace it, be careful you don't adopt anything from other groups" are typically white supremacists and I don't want anything to do with them. I do think using other people's religious symbols ignorantly is harmful, but a lot of culture is much less special than that, and people borrowing and adapting from each other's cultures is one of the things that pulls the branches of humanity together against the bigots, racists, and supremacists. [link]

In response to a claim that Somerville is extremely dense:

Somerville density numbers are higher than they should be because the area of the town is pretty much all housing. Places that have both homes and workplaces, like Cambridge, look less dense by comparison.

The right metric is something like a population weighted average of the densities of the census tracts in the city, instead of just population over land area, because this better captures how dense a neighborhood feels. But I haven't seen anyone compute this. [link]

[Note: you could compute this from the census data and shapefiles, and I started doing this a couple years ago, but never finished.]

In a discussion about gender in performer booking

Comparing contra callers and musicians is interesting: because callers are nearly half female I think a lot of people are willing to say "let's try and book half of each, that seems fair", since it's not a large change. But because musicians are so imbalanced I think more organizers think "I guess it's just a mostly male thing" and don't try to push it towards balance. Feels like an "if you can't get to 50% why bother" sort of reaction. [link]

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