Hear me ramble in other media!

For those of you who like hearing what I have to say and yet are simultaneously tired of reading my long-winded text blocks, here’s some fancy new ways to get your fix:

Check out my Skepticamp talk on the history of the relationship between science and the media, and how we can navigate it to parse the truth from the hyperbole!

And now that you’ve heart all about the problems of media, take some time to hear the good stuff! Give Life, the Universe & Everything Else a gander – I’ll be on the panel occasionally, just like I am in the latest episode discussing “What’s the Harm?” in alternative medicine. We’re the top “New and Noteworthy” podcast on iTunes in Science & Medicine, and also in the top 25 of popular Science & Medicine podcasts as of right now!

And hey, if you really can’t live another day without reading an Orac-ian block of text, I’m also blogging for Skeptic North now, where I’ve already been trolled for my post on the evils of pox parties and the lack of informed consent in the anti-vax movement.

No Kids Allowed: Bigotry or practicality?

So I came across this article on ScienceDaily:

In a study published in the Indiana Law Review, Oliveri reviewed 10,000 housing advertisements from 10 major U.S. cities… Of the 10,000 ads she reviewed, she found that only five percent were potentially problematic or illegal.

The Federal Housing Act (FHA) prohibits housing advertisements from expressing preferences based on race, ethnicity, religion, or familial status. Even ads that mention no preference but give biographical information about the advertiser that includes race, ethnicity, religion, or familial status may violate the federal law.

… Oliveri said. “The overwhelming majority of ads that violate the Federal Housing Act discriminate on the basis of familial status, which is whether or not a potential tenant or roommate has children. Moreover, the vast majority of those who post discriminatory on-line advertisements for housing are placed by people seeking roommates…”

Oliveri thinks people in shared housing situations who are advertising for roommates should be exempt from FHA laws. She argues that preventing roommate-seekers from advertising biographical information about themselves or expressing such preferences for their desired roommate would disproportionately affect minority group members who want to differentiate themselves from the majority or who seek a roommate who is a member of a minority group.

What a ridiculous law. And what a ridiculously poorly worded article, especially since the title is “Online Housing Discrimination Primarily Done by Roommate-Seekers, Familial Status, Study Finds” and the fact that the lead researcher herself thinks it’s silly is imbedded several paragraphs down.

But seriously, who wrote this law? Having a roommate is like entering into a relationship: if you’re not compatible, it’s bound not to work out. If I’m a proud granola eating uber-feminist vegan, then maybe carnivorous Men’s Rights advocates should consider another arrangement. If I’m an outspoken atheist and my potential roommate is an evangelical young earth creationist (all sitcom potential aside), if I am outspoken enough about it to include it in my ad, I’m asking you to take that into consideration. If I don’t mention it, then it’s not a big deal. It’s no different than a profile on a dating website – you are simplifying your personality down to some quick and dirty facts in the hopes of attracting a compatible individual. It’s not discrimination: it’s saying “This is me. Can you deal with it?” Perhaps race/ethnicity/religion/marital status are irrelevant to that. Maybe not. Failing to be upfront about things that are important to your identity is only going to lead to pain and suffering in the end.

The marital status portion is even sillier. If I’m advertising for a roommate, that does not mean you and your family. Not you and your best friend and your cousin from out East. That means one person. If I’m saying explicitly in my ad: no kids, it means I don’t want to have to deal with kids. It’s my home, and although I respect your right to have children, that does not make them my problem unless I want them to be. People are allowed to say “No pets” for the same reason. If I’m allergic to pets or just really hate animals, I’m allowed to ask you not to bring them into my home.  If I’m a student studying long hours and I absolutely need quiet, or I’m offering to share a small space that truly cannot accommodate more than two people – then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say “no kids.”

Conversely, if someone listing an ad for a roommate, I think marital status is pertinent information. I would not feel comfortable renting a room in a house full of single men I did not know. I would feel much more safe, given a choice between the two, renting a room in the house of a married couple. These are, of course, broad brush strokes and subject to nuance, but I know the sort of lifestyle I have and would want to be living with people who had compatible lifestyles. If they have an 8 month old baby, that’s also pretty relevant information before I move in the door. In fact, if someone left this out of a roommate ad, I would instantly be wary and feel lied to. If you’re not being straight forward about who is living in the house, then what else are you hiding? “Oh, by the way, we have 6 kids” is worth noting up front just as much as “I’m a neat freak” or “I am a chain smoker” or “I have a tendency to crank Lady Gaga at 6 a.m. to pump me up every morning.”

Now, I don’t think that’s bigotry, but maybe someone could explain to me why I’m wrong?

Filler – so sue me!

So I know I’ve not posted anything in forever (since my first week of classes, as it turns out), but I just wanted to post a few quick things:

– As it turns out, being a medical student is rather time consuming. It’s not to say it’s quite as bad as some people seem to think it is, but I’m also living by myself, so keeping on top of feeding myself, doing yard work, cleaning house, etc. in addition to studying ends up eating up a lot of my time. So hence my lack of time to compose insightful, brilliant opuses of skepticism. Or you know, even the usual sort of thing I write.

– I don’t have TV anymore and I miss being able to watch Mythbusters. So I followed them all on Twitter. Tory was live-tweeting this Sunday’s episode where they were launching anvils into the air (via explosion, of course). Jealous, I tweeted:

I was maybe a little too excited when he tweeted back.

He made a very good point, and so I didn’t drop out. Yet. Tuition isn’t due until the end of September… so there is still time. Ha ha. Alternatively, I’m hoping they need a doctor on the set. I’d totally do it for free. I love science.

– I spent a lot of time this summer at the St. Norbert Farmer’s Market, and I’ve finally been annoyed enough by the various insane things being peddled there that I decided to blog about it. It’s a work in progress, but here’s some clues: negative ions, biofeedback subluxations, and raw diet. You would not believe how adamantly people buy into it. I actually unintentionally got into an argument about it with one of the customers of these people because they randomly came up to me and tried to convince me, too.

– I also have a lengthy piece on stem cells that I don’t know what to do with for the moment. It’s more educational than controversial – unfortunately but once again science demonstrates that there are no absolutes, and every answer has the caveat “…but it’s not quite that simple.”

– I have a scheduled, testable course lecture on CAM use in cancer coming up in October. It’s being given by the head of the local CAM institute, so I fully expect to have a plethora of blog material from it. It is our only scheduled CAM lecture, but fortunately we have a few vocal skeptics in the class, so it could be an interesting class.

– I am totally procrastinating on studying for my upcoming ominously looming midterm right now. I just thought you should know if you hadn’t figured it out.

Speaking of procrastinating, here's a picture of the grizzlies at the Calgary Zoo. Guess what I did on Saturday...

Skepticamp Winnipeg is coming up forthwith!  September 17th! Aqua Books! Come see all the interesting people give talks on nutrition, fallacies, polyamory, free will, perpetual motion machines… oh, and some pseudonymous blogger is doing a talk about Science in the Media (and how to find out the truth of things). I’m quite excited for it. Let us know that you’re coming here.

If I could stop time

When asked if I could do anything what would it be, my answer is quite simple.

I would like to stop time.

I would keep time on pause at a specific moment where I was the happiest. Each one of us has these moments where time slows and the world becomes a faded image in the face of what makes your insides glow. To pause the clock and examine the moment from every angle, to better commit it to memory, would be the ultimate ability.

If we all stopped to appreciate a single moment in time for the simple beauty it holds…

Well, you decide what that experience would do to who you are.