Thursday, March 15, 2012

You code, girl!

The Anita Borg Institute has published a list of famous women computer scientists. It's pretty impressive.

Gotta love my systers!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Better than Mansfield Park

I just finished watching the 1999 version of Mansfield Park. (I started watching it on Netflix and then they did a weird bait and switch on me, and decided it was no longer available as a Watch Now option. But the movie was so intriguing that I had to get it out of the library.)

Now, I think I've mentioned previously, that I kind of hate Mansfield Park. I'm very sorry to say such a thing about an Austen piece, but so it is. What I hate most about it is that Fanny is such a prissy, passive, mousy, helpless thing, unlike most of her other heroines. So I was roped in by the movie on seeing an utterly different sort of creature, a girl with imagination, wit, and spirit.

Unfortunately, despite the inspiring take on Fanny and fabulous acting by all, I found the movie a little annoying. It took huge liberties with the plot and characterizations, which would have been fine, had the script been stronger. Since I kept comparing it to the book, it's a little hard for me to say, but I think the plot would not quite stand on its own.

I found it particularly hilarious that on the DVD cover, it says, "For everyone who loved 'Emma' and 'Sense & Sensibility' comes the story Jane Austen loved best." I am 99.9% certain that Jane would have disapproved of this movie.

Inspired by the film, I'm re-reading the book, and I still dislike it. However, I did notice that it used the phrase "life of the party," which I would have guessed to be of much more recent origin.

So regardless of its faults, on balance, I still think I like the movie better than the book. Which is something I can rarely say.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Contraception Costs

Rush's obscene comments are based either on a profound ignorance of how most woman-based contraception works, or on a profound cynicism about the American public's ignorance of how it works. Or (since we're talking about Rush, here) both.

I'm a computer scientist, so let me put it in computer science terms.
Cost of the most popular male-based contraceptives (i.e. condoms): O(n), where n is the number of sexual encounters. (Withdrawal not included.)
Cost of most female-based contraceptives (e.g. pill, IUD): O(1), with a large constant.

For non-computer scientists: to oversimplify somewhat, a function f(n) is O(n) if it is roughly proportional to n. In other words, as you increase n, you also increase f(n). A function f(n) is O(1) if it really doesn't matter how big n gets, it's always the same value. A good example of an O(n) function might be cost-of-gas-per-week as a function of number of miles driven. As the number of miles goes up, so does the amount I'm paying for gas (assuming prices don't drop). An example of an O(1) function: price-per-gallon as a function of the number of miles driven. It really doesn't matter how many miles I'm driving -- the cost per gallon remains the same.

Which brings me back to Rush. He thought he was being so clever with accusing Ms. Fluke of having so much sex that she couldn't afford to pay for it. Whereas for most forms of birth control that are fully in a woman's control (and I think that last bit is significant), it really doesn't matter whether you're getting it once an hour or (as primly as Rush or Rick could desire) conceding it once a year...the cost is the same. And it's jolly expensive, even for once a year.

Which is in stark contrast to the most popular male method: pay per use, and a fraction of the cost of the dinner/movie that precedes its use.

Why is that?

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that we're having this national conversation about who pays for birth control. Who wants to pay more to let women have control?