Monday, February 28, 2005

An Evening with Father-Of-Four and Their Sidekick

On Saturday, BioMom and the FYO trekked down the alley for a night of debauchery with the bachelor-for-the-night Father-of-Four and their Sidekick (a friend of FO4's and best-friend of MO4's since elementary school).

It is always insane over there even if, as was the case that evening, two of the four were at friends' places for the evening, and our FYO LOVES it. Between the sheer number of mammals in the house (they also have a guinnea pig and a newly adopted puppy) and their magnanimous personalities, you can always expect a good time.

This evening was no disappointment, except for the fact that I was exhausted and called it relatively early only to fall asleep in front of How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog later at home.

Their Sidekick told a story about a recent attempt at putting 4of4 (our FYO's chronological counterpart) to bed. Apparently she had a marker and was unwilling to put it down for the night. Sidekick patiently took it from her hand, placed it on the bedside table, and drew a line in the sand:

If that marker moves between now and the morning, you will be in trouble.

4Of4 responds:

Bad [name of Sidekick]! Bad [name of Sidekick]!

4Of4 being especially haughty - much more so than our FYO - woke up with marker covering her exposed skin the next morning.

I don't know what the consequence was, but am glad that to this point, our FYO hasn't been willing to push the boundaries that far!

Cross-Sex Shifts

Check this out via Taggert at A Random Walk:

Gay men read maps like women

* 18:32 25 February 2005
* news service
* Shaoni Bhattacharya

Gay men employ the same strategies for navigating as women - using landmarks to find their way around - a new study suggests.

But they also use the strategies typically used by straight men, such as using compass directions and distances. In contrast, gay women read maps just like straight women, reveals the study of 80 heterosexual and homosexual men and women.

"Gay men adopt male and female strategies. Therefore their brains are a sexual mosaic," explains Qazi Rahman, a psychobiologist who led the study at the University of East London, UK. "It's not simply that lesbians have men's brains and gay men have women's brains."

The stereotype that women are relatively poor map readers is borne out by a reasonable bulk of scientific literature, notes Rahman. "Men, particularly, excel at spatial navigation." The new study might help researchers understand how cognitive differences and sexual orientation develop in the womb, he says.

The results are "very intriguing" and provide "further insight into the origins of route-learning strategies, and the organisation of cognitive abilities in general" says Jean Choi at the University of Lethbridge, Canada, who researches spatial behaviour in humans.
Left at the church

Previous tests challenging men and women to make their way through virtual-reality mazes, or real-life scenarios, have shown that men tend to be speedier and use different strategies to women.

But Rahman points out this does not mean that all women are bad map readers, or that it is the mental strategy employed that makes the difference.

Women tend to navigate using landmarks. For example: "Turn left at the church and carry on past the corner shop." Rahman told New Scientist that "men rely more on the points of the compass; they have a better sense of north, south, east and west". They are also more likely to describe distances.
"Cross-sex shifts"

Rahman and his colleagues designed the study to test a theory that gay men and lesbian women might show "cross-sex shifts" in some cognitive abilities as well as in their sexual preferences.

The hypothesis is that homosexual people shift in the direction of the opposite sex in other aspects of their psychology other than sexual preference. That is, gay men may take on aspects of female psychology, and lesbians acquire aspects of male psychology.

Gay men did indeed show a "robust cross-sex shift" in the study, says Rahman. Volunteers were asked to look at a pictorial map and memorise four different routes for about a minute. They then had to recall the information as though they were giving a friend directions from one place to another.

"As we expected, straight men used more compass directions than gay men or women, and used distances as well. Women recalled significantly more landmarks," says Rahman. But gay men recalled more landmarks than straight men, as well as using typically male orientation strategies.
Verbal fluency

"The results support the notion that males' and females' cognitive abilities may be organised in different ways, and highlight the importance of accounting for sex-specific patterns of behaviour," Choi told New Scientist.

The difference between gay men and lesbian women might hint at differences in development, says Rahman. Previous work has shown that lesbians show little difference in their cognitive skills compared with straight women.

The only measure on which they appear to shift is on language production or verbal fluency, he adds. Like straight men, lesbians tend to be more sparing with words than straight women. Gay men, however, are inclined to speak as much as straight women.

"It might be that whatever causes sexual orientation and cognitive differences are uncoupled in lesbian development, while in gay men the two things could be tightly coupled," Rahman suggests.

Journal reference: Behavioral Neuroscience (vol 119, p 311)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

For The Straight Folks Who Don't Mind Gays But Wish They Weren't So Blatant

O'Reilly's column and Cousin's comment reminds me of a poem by Pat Parker that I heard in college. Here it is, reprinted without permission:


You know, some people got a lot of nerve.
Sometimes I don't believe the things I see and hear.

Have you met the woman who's shocked by two women kissing
and in the same breath, tells you she is pregnant? BUT gays,
shouldn't be so blatant.

Or this straight couple sits next to you in a movie and
you can't hear the dialogue because of the sound effects.
BUT gays shouldn't be so blatant.

And the woman in your office spends and entire lunch hour
talking about her new bikini drawers and how much
her husband likes them.
BUT gays shouldn't be so blatant.

Or the "hip" chick in your class rattling like a mile a minute
while you're trying to get stoned in the john, about the
camping trip she took with her musician boyfriend.
BUT gays shouldn't be so blatant.

You go in a public bathroom and all over the walls there's John
loves Mary, Janice digs Richard, Pepe loves Delores, etc., etc.
BUT gays shouldn't be so blatant.

Or your go to an amusement park and there's a tunnel of love
and pictures of straights painted on the front and grinning
couples are coming in and out.
BUT gays shouldn't be so blatant.

Fact is, blatant heterosexuals are all over the place.
Supermarkets, movies, on your job, in church, in books, on
television every day day and night, every place-even- in gay
bars and they want gay
men and woman to go and hide in the closet.

So to you straight folks I say, "Sure, I'll go if you go too"
BUT I'm polite so, after you.

I Finally Figured It Out

Bill O'Reilly's cheaky Maureen Dowdesque article via Cousin finally helped me to comprehend why we're all fired up about Buster and his gay-marriage-allowing-Vermont visit to the maple-sugar-loving-lesbian-household.

O'Reilly sets the stage for us:

For those of you unfamiliar with Buster, he is a curious rabbit that hops around on public TV introducing small children to the wonders of American life. In one of his adventures, Buster showed up in Vermont to check out the maple syrup industry, and wound up surrounded by a bunch of lesbians and their children. The connection between the syrup business and lesbians was never really explained, but Buster posed for a picture with the group, and looks very happy.

Then he sets up the drama for us. As I mentioned in my previous post, the new Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings "wasn't happy and fired off a letter to PBS saying that federal money should not be used to 'introduce this kind of subject matter to chilren.' Since the Public Broadcasting Service gets around $80 million dollars a year in taxpayer funds, that kind of letter gets PBS' attention fast."

Then Congressman Barney Frank stepped into the fray writing to Spellings: "You have said familiies should not have to deal with reality of the existence of same-sex couples, the strong implication is that this is something from which young children should be shielded."


Well, yeah, Barn, that's correct. Many Americans believe that little kids should have a childhood and not be subjected to any kind of sexuality. I don't want to be offensive here, but who in their right mind wants to explain Norma and Barbara's lifestyle to their four-year-old? Give the kids a break, okay?

It is well known that many in the communications business believe that a subliminal "gay is okay" message is imperative to foster tolerance in America. On paper, the theory looks good, and is good if the child is mature enough to process the situation. But introducing homosexuality into the little kid culture angers many Americans who believe sex in general is an inappropriate topic for small children, and that is a legitimate point of view whether Barney Frank or PBS likes it or not.

What Cousin pointed out to me, though, in an email is that we expose kids to sexuality every day.

O'Reilly points this out by saying that kids today are over-sexualized through the media etc. But this isn't Cousn's point. Her point is one that sexuality is everywhere. And not just the over-the-top media and advertising sex that O'Reilly is talking about. Kids are made aware of sexuality from cues galore from their parent's and friend's parents holding hands, to kissing a casual good-bye, to their friend's older siblings talking about their boyfriends and girlfriends. They are made aware of sexuality from nearly all the Disney shows on the planet.

The FYO regularly talks about falling in love at first sight and being wisked off to the palace for the glorious nuptial ball and her honeymoon in Florida (her place where all good things must exist because grandma and grandpa make their regular winter pilgrimage there).

So why do we make such a fuss of Buster?

Cousin asked "were the 'bunch of lesbians' in the show making out and doin' it while they made the syrup?? Let me know."

No. Of course, they weren't. As I mentioned in my previous post, were you not paying attention, you may not have even understood the subtext of the show. The point is, and thank you Cousin and O'Reilly for helping me to figure it out again, that we need good models of gay and lesbian folks that are just in the background. In our everyday life. So that it won't seem so strange and bizarre when kids do grow up and deal with the tough issues that society presents.

While O'Reilly's question is obvious and relatively correct -- no I don't want to explain every detail of the lesbian's lifestyle to even my FYO (see my story on Girls Can't Marry Girls in which I pose the difficulty of talking about the politics of marriage to the FYO)... No. But that's not the point. If our FYO, his FYO, the Cousin's 1 and 3YO's grow up with this issue on the normal radar then maybe we will have gotten a bit closer to a society that accepts people's choices.

God forbid O'Reilly's kid turns out to be gay him or herself. When, Bill, should your kid begin to be exposed to an image that makes him or her feel like it is o.k. to be him or herself?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Info About Local Showing of Buster

O.k. so I ultimately have to sell some advertising in exchange for having seen the show.

Here is some info about a local public showing of the Sugartime episode of Buster:

My reaction to the show?

What's the fuss? Why do we get all fired up over this?

It was great in the sense that the lesbian couple thing was in the background. I mean, that's the point, isn't it? That they are just another family. They were also Jewish and on the show they had a Sabbath dinner. In other words: there are lots of different kinds of families. Blah. Blah. Blah.

But my point about wondering what all the fuss is about, is that I can't figure out why people get so bothered by a show like this when the subtext of the lesbian parents is so insubstantial. I mean, you would almost have to have been looking for it to even notice it. At the beginning, Buster is told that he is going to spend time with a friend of his Mom's and her "partner" and their kids. This is the first innocuous hint of anything somewhat different.

Then, one of the real live kids shows Buster around their house. Again, everything is the same. At one point, she shows Buster some pictures and you see one picture of the lesbian couple together. Whoa. Revolutionary.

J.H.C. What's all the fuss?

Inspired by The Trixie Update

Here's a great picture of the FYO.

While Eavesdropping at the Coffee Shop One Day Part Deux

Today's eavesdropping session was particularly fruitful.

I walked into the back room of a local Caribou with every intention to read my HUGE article on assessing affirmative action.

As I entered the back room, a group looked up at me like I was intruding on some sort of private ritual.

Is this a private meeting? Am I interrupting?

We're just having a meeting.

A spirited discussion!

So, I settled down in the corner to read my article.

Turns out they were having a meeting about a much heralded showing of an episode of the cartoon Buster called "Sugartime" which is, ostensibly about getting the sugar out of maple trees, but the background is that Buster is visiting an "old friend" of his mom's who is a. . . you guessed it. . . a lesbian! with a *gasp* partner and *gasp* kids!!!

Here's one description:
"Sugartime" is about Buster's visit to northern Vermont. The program explores the wonders of Vermont - from sugar houses to dairy farms to nighttime bonfires. As with many episodes, the real children Buster meets introduce us to their family. In this case the children have two mothers. The parents' lives are included as a backdrop to the kids' lives.

PBS decided not to distribute the Postcards from Buster "Sugartime" episode because some of the topics raised on the program were of the nature that parents may prefer to discuss with their children at a time and manner of their choosing. The producer of the program, WGBH - TV in Boston, has made the episode available to stations wishing to air it.

People FLIPPED about this showing on t.v. in our area.

Apparently, there's been a lot of flack about PBS spending any money on the production of such a show:

Spellings, the new education secretary, denounced PBS for spending public money on an episode of Postcards from Buster that features a lesbian couple. The episode does not focus on the couple but on their maple sugaring in Vermont.

The Caribou Group invited me to watch this preview of the show, which I'm doing RIGHT NOW... AS. I. BLOG.

A WORLD PREMIER of BUSTER. . . AND, I get to avoid work! Win Win for me!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

One More Great Comment on Summers

This from Colin Danby from a listserve that I frequent:

Re[garding] "socialization," *please* let's not lapse into the nature|nurture divide, with genetic predisposition playing the role of nature and socialization standing for nurture. As I argued a couple weeks ago, this simplistic split uncritically assumes that observed poor results for women genuinely reflect something women lack, and that this thing they lack is rooted in the past - at birth or in childhood. It's a way to pass the buck.

We need attention to current, active, ongoing institutional and social structure. This realm is inadequately represented by the term "discrimination," which too easily gets absorbed into a methodologically-individualist notion of mere "prejudice" as a personal taste. "Discrimination" is really a result, with no clearly-specified mechanism, and without elaboration people will fill in whatever
mechanism they choose to imagine. If you're a neoclassical economist that mechanism will be (has to be, I think) individual tastes. You can see that even in Summers' most recent statement, the most ample understanding of discrimination he can manage is that it might include both conscious and unconscious tastes.

(One of the malign consequences of naively using Summers' grid to fill in %s is that he has cleverly separated the phenomenon of people dropping out in their 20s-30s ((a) in my last msg) from that of discrimination ((e) in my last msg). Not only does one need a complete list of causal variables, which Summers' list is not, but one needs to consider interaction between them,)What the MIT study pointed to, and what even a few moments' reflection will suggest if you have ever hung out with natural scientists, is that there is a consequential layer of thick social interaction in the formation of a scientist, from mid-undergraduate work onward. The social structure of natural science is an odd hybrid of elite-recruitment (at each stage a few younger people are plucked out and encouraged and promoted) and feudalism (labs
with star senior scientists who get funds and support large numbers of junior colleagues, postdocs, and grad students, in exchange for a share of the credit for all their work).

If we start with a structural understanding of gender as functioning within ongoing social relations and interactions, we want to ask how these densely-social, face-to-face networks work. How do race, social class, and gender shape them? You can see this in econ: there have been places I've taught where the senior faculty were almost all men, and they just didn't hang out with women. The homosociality would be cemented through sports, or the odd dirty joke. Forming ties with senior
people is vital to getting advice and contacts, getting your papers commented on, learning of opportunities, getting good letters, and so forth. Here is where you want to look!

While our pasts are not irrelevant, anyone who supervises students knows that confidence and a willingness to work really hard are a lot more important. People can remake themselves, and often do.

More On The Summers Controversy

I just read what I consider to be just about the most intelligent comment on the subject.

Here is an exerpt from the New York Times review of Mommy Madness by Judith Shulevitz (20 FEB, 2005):

That a dearth of women in a particular field leads directly to doubt about their suitability for that field was made amply clear by the controversy last month over whether women lack the genetic capacity to succeed as professors of math and science. Maybe they do and maybe they don't, but you don't need genetics to explain why women might fail to rise to the top of a profession that requires an 80-hour workweek.

[Bold mine.]

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Out of the Mouths of

The scene: BioMom is picking up a few extra Ovulation Predictor Kits at Walgreens and is accompanied by the FYO and her trusty Sidekick.

Sidekick: What's that?

FYO: Mommy's pee sticks.

On Women Bloggers

You'll note that I've included a list of women bloggers for your perusal.
This is a response to Kevin Drum's comments via Bitch.Ph.D.

While I sort of like the whole "are differences between men and women intrinsic, socialized, or whatever", I have to admit that Drum's speculation about his observation that either

(a) there are fewer female political bloggers and thus fewer in the top 30, or (b) there are plenty of women who blog about politics but they don't get a lot of traffic or links from high-traffic male bloggers.

is ridiculous.

He explains his observation buy guessing that

it's a bit of both, and the proximate reason is that men are more comfortable with the food fight nature of opinion writing - both writing it and reading it. Since I don't wish to suffer the fate of Larry Summers I'll refrain from speculating on deep causes - it might be social, cultural, genetic, or Martian mind rays for all I know - but I imagine that the fundamental viciousness and self aggrandizement inherent in opinion writing turns off a lot of women.

What he never does is reconsider his observation itself, and whether or not either a) he is biased or b) his sources (actually, the thorough researcher that he is, I must de-pluralize that and say "source") are (is) biased.

I am actually not of the mind that we need to have separate spaces for women (or any possibly discriminated against group formed either by choice or by birth). But I thought I'd highlight a few women bloggers just for the sake of exposing more of us.

This whole thing reminds me of a trip to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in my "I'm Here I'm Queer, Get Used To It" Phase. On one trip there was a huge protest about the festival's policy on only admitting what they referred to as "Womyn Born Womyn." In other words, they did not want pre- or post-op transsexuals (boys were only allowed to accompany their mom's up to a certain age). Anyway, the protesters had a sign that said something to the effect of "Honk if you support Transsexuals!"


Its so ridic to respond to repression with more repression.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


I can't believe the FYO wants to go sledding tonight.

After school last night we met Sidekick and her dad at THE HILL.

The HILL's conditions reflected the fact that the entire neighborhood's parents had the day off due to the federal holiday. It was smooth, icy and the moguls, left behind by would-be snowboarders and teenagers reliving their childhoods on toboggans heavy with their weight, warranted a sign plastered with a huge black diamond.

On one run, the FYO and I crowded on to our little purple saucer (I note the color because it was obviously a point of discord for the FYO: But I want to ride on a pink one!). I was unable to steer effectively enough and, according to Sidekick's dad, we hit each and every bump at its peak.

There must be some mathematical model out there predicting larger ass-bruises when the tangency between snow saucers and snow moguls occurs at each curve's peak--that is, where each curve's first derivative is zero. Combine this with a little physics that predicts that the "load" will catch more "lift" if the saucer's peak hits the mogul's peak at their highest points and you've got one sore 35-year-old here.

The FYO's reaction upon reaching the bottom of the hill:


The madness culminated with the FYO and sidekick heading down together after a guided push from Sidekick's dad toward what could only be referred to as a small, but insistent "ski-jump" in the middle hill.

As their little plastic toboggan raced toward the jump, my regret surfaced to Sidekick's Dad:

Oh my god! They're going to hit it!!

But it was too late.

They hit the jump, but not dead-on, which made it worse. As the little sled approached the left side of the jump, they twisted left. Soon we saw two distinct little bodies and their sled in the air -- none of which was touching any longer.

Then SMACK. They all landed.

Then a few pregnant seconds of quiet in the air.

Then Sidekick's wail.

This, on top of what must have felt to the FYO's like climbing Mt. Everest after each run, I can't believe she wants to go back.

Email from BioMom

[FYO] wants to go sledding tonight. I told her that was cool or we could go out to dinner. She wants to do both. I said we probably don't have time for both. Then she said, I don't like my bedtime, can we move it back to 11? I said no, then she said 10? I said no, then she said 9? I said no then she said 8? I said yes.

As BioMom is the quintessential negotiator, I'd say the FYO is following in her footsteps.

Note that her original bedtime is 8.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The 21st Century Guide to Dating: Subject? Maintenance

A friend of mine was out on a date last week. The date is a very candid physician and so they find themselves in strange but remarkably forward conversations.

Friend: Can I ask you a personal question?

Dr.Dude: Sure.

Friend: Do you do pap smears and everying?

Dr.Dude: Sure. Can I ask you a personal question?

Friend: Sure.

Dr.Dude: Do you maintain?

Me to Friend: What the eff does "maintain" mean?

I can just imagine the Match.Com ad:

GWM seeking GWM for casual dataing. I'm looking for an honest person who enjoys long walks and old movies, maintains, and loves Dostoevsky.

While Eavesdropping at the Coffee Shop One Day

I just heard this interaction between one Mom and her darling little probably 2 year old at the local coffee shop today:

Which one do you want? The brown one or the white one? [Referring to the sprinkle donut choices. Note that I could not hear what the little girl was saying at all so I'll represent her responses with ". . . " .]

. . .

Its Mommy's coffee.

. . .

It's not some fancy coffee treat. Its just coffee.

. . .

Do you want some?

. . .

[I then observe the woman pouring her coffee into the girl's sippy cup and the girl drinking out of it!?!]

Thursday, February 17, 2005

On Blog Hilarity

Check out this hilarious post on The Rhetoric of Blog Humor via Bitch.Ph.D.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The King and the King

The other night at bedtime BioMom and I read a couple of books in a series to the FYO. The books were:

King & King by Linda de Haan & Stern Nijland, and their second book, King & King & Family.

They are lovely books. Basically, the story starts with a young prince who is to get married and take over the thrown from his exhausted Queen-Mum who is dreaming of retirement. In the search for the perfect future-queen, the prince's heart pitter-pats for one candidate's brother. And so the story goes.

What is nice about it is that a) the story is more like a fairy tale than other books with the gay-parent theme and b) it is just simply, sweet.

The famous Heather Has Two Mommies is written for an older kid, with small print and more words on the page. It covers the whole "there are lots of different families" angle. Other books for kids with the theme of gay parents approach what the author expects will be negative attitudes from the gay-parented kid's schoolmates. Picture a scene at school with a bunch of children in a room having a conversation about their families:

Where's your daddy?


That's not a family!

BioMom and I had not yet introduced this sort of literature to the FYO because it all seemed to assume some negativity -- before the fact. So we basically avoided it all until, we found King & King.

Anyway, we read the stories to the FYO and all was good. Off to bed.

Next night: BioMom revisits the stories. BioMom reported seeing the lightbulb over her head afterwards:

That just can't be!

What can't be?

The prince can't marry the prince. He has to marry the princess!

Again, the protests from BioMom:

But our friends MRM1 and MRM2 are married? And what about me and [blog author's first name]?

But [blog author's first name] is a boy!

No she isn't.

So, she struggles.

More More More on Getting What You Get

Regarding the commenter's comment....
Okay, okay, maybe the FYO won't be any more or less unique. And, sure, my comments about genes and selection were probably a bit creepy. Also, I'll concede the ineptness of comparing to an interracial couple and the inability to pass.

I think I am reacting to at least two things that I have observed:

1. I absolutely know that some people with health problems consider not having kids because of the (even minute) possibility of passing on the problem and

2. I am observing the FYO struggle with the fact that she has two moms.

I am not the wallowing type (regarding sexuality). And I think that I've made that point clear. I am, however, the observing type. I have observed:

1. people of all sexual orientations judge glbt people for bringing kids into the world for the reasons I've described and
2. gay parents act really weird about being gay parents, such as only having gay friends and feeling a strong need to expose their kids to gay parents etc. (see the Rainbow Familis Conference post).

That's the whole point of this blog. For better or for worse, I am attempting to document some of the differences, actual or perceived, in this sort of family. See this for a description of the blog.

You're probably right, that ultimately there isn't any difference (I made that point as well). But the question is there, and like the question "why climb Everest?", that's why I ask it: because its there.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Economics of Food Stamps

So, my current students are now feeling the effects this new-found curiosity of the different effects of giving the poor food stamps versus a cash subsidy of some equivalent value (i.e. so my honest indigent can buy his beer). Their second problem set of the semester is now based on this case study of the Food Stamp Program, with the economic question:

Would a switch to a comparable cash subsidy increase the well-being of food stamp recipients? Would the recipients spend less on food and more on other goods?

Here is some interesting background for you:

The Food Stamp Program (FSP) provides nutrition assistance benefits to low-income households that can be used to purchase foods from authorized food retailers. When Congress created the FSP in the early 1960s, it envisioned a program to provide low-income Americans with access to a healthy, nutritious diet.

Nearly 11% of U.S. households worry about having enough money to buy food and 3.3% report that they suffer from inadequate food (Sullivan and Choi, 2002). Households that meet income, asset, and employment eligibility requirements receive coupons that can be used to purchase food from retail stores. The Food Stamps Program is one of the nation's largest social welfare programs. Initial data from 2004 shows that 23,854,000 people participated, receiving approximately $86 dollars per month. The program provided 24,627.8 million dollars in benefits and cost the federal, state, and local governments 27,151.4 million dollars.

Food Stamps can purchase only certain kinds of foods:

Households CAN use food stamp benefits to buy:
Foods for the household to eat, such as:
* breads and cereals;
* fruits and vegetables;
* meats, fish and poultry; and
* dairy products.
* Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.
Households CANNOT use food stamp benefits to buy:
* Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco;
* Any nonfood items, such as:
* pet foods;
* soaps, paper products; and
* household supplies.
* Vitamins and medicines.
* Food that will be eaten in the store.
* Hot foods

In some areas, restaurants can be authorized to accept food stamp benefits from qualified homeless, elderly, or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals. Food stamp benefits cannot be exchanged for cash.

Since the food stamp programs started in the early 1960s, economists, nutritionists, and policymakers have debated "cashing out" food stamps by providing checks or cash instead of coupons that can be spent only on food.

Legally, food stamps may not be sold, though a black market for them exists. Because of technological advances in electronic fund transfers, switching from food stamps to a cash program would lower administrative costs and reduce losses due to fraud and theft.

The question that economists ask about the program is:

"Would a switch to a comparable cash subsidy increase the well-being of food stamp recipients? Would the recipients spend less on food and more on other goods?"

In order to analyze this, we must identify the costs and benefits of offering food stamps versus the costs and benefits of offering cash transfers to the poor. According to the Food Stamp Nutrition Education Framework,

A USDA study from 2000 indicates many low-income adults do not know specific facts related to what types of dietary practices are healthful, such as what specific foods they should eat to maintain a healthy diet (Gleason and Olson, 2000). More recently, attention has focused on providing nutrition education and services to program participants to address the rising epidemic of overweight and obesity in America. Here, too, the need is great-for example, 65% of adults in America are overweight-putting them at risk for serious health problems including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and some cancers.

Low-income households have a higher prevalence of health conditions related to poor nutrition than households with higher incomes. Women with lower family income levels are 50% more likely to be obese than those with higher family incomes. And, while obesity rates have doubled in children and tripled in adolescents over the last two decades, they have increased the most among those in the lowest income levels, especially African American and Mexican American children (Ogden, Flegal, Carroll and Johnson, 2002; CDC, 2002).

Empirical Evidence

According to Franker (1990), an additional dollar of income causes an average low-income household to increase its food expenditures by $0.05 to $0.10, and an additional dollar of food stamps leads to a $0.20 to $0.45 increase in food expenditures.

Experiments by various researchers (Moffit, 1989; Fasciano, Hall, and Beebout, 1993; and Carlson, 1993) show that responses to trading food stamps for cash have had different effects by area and demographic group. In Puerto Rico, for example, giving cash instead of food stamps had no detectable effect. In 75% of studies in the U.S., researchers found that giving cash reduces household food expenditures, with magnitudes varying from the negligible to 17%. Three studies of the nutrition effects of substituting cash for food stamps found no effect in Alabama, a 5% drop in San Diego, and a 6% to 11% decline in nutrients in Washington State.
Other studies show significant declines in administrative costs due to fraud and theft by cashing out food stamps. In Alabama, for example, administrative costs fell from $2.05 to $1.03 per case per month.

Lastly, I should note that according to one study, 54% of families with children and incomes below the poverty line participated in the Food Stamp Program in 1999.

Centers for Disease Control. 2002. "Health, United States" National Center for Health Statistics.

Gleason, P, Rangarajan, Olson C. 2000. "Dietary Intake and Dietary Attitudes Among Food Stamp Participants and Other Low-Income Individuals." USDA.

Ogden, CL, Flegal, KM, Carroll, MD, and Johnson, CL. "Prevalence and trends in overweight among US children and adolescents, 1999-2000" JAMA 288: 1728-32.

Sullivan, Ashley F., and Eunyoung Choi. 2002. "Hunger and Food Insecurity in Fifty States: 1998-2000." Center on Hunger and Poverty, Brandeis University.

The Honest Indigent

I'm not sure what we want to do with this information, but it certainly corroborates my previous post.

Two issues are brought to the forefront:

1. Is it more efficient to transfer cash or goods in-kind to the homeless? Presumably this guy will trade in whatever he is given at whatever the discount, for beer, thereby reducing the initial value of an in-kind transfer.

2. Should the philanthropist necessarily get to define the choice set of the gift regardless of the recipient's preferences? In other words, is there a place for paternalism here? Does father know best?

Confession: I did give him money. I am not categorically against giving money to people who ask for it on the street. In this case, however, I felt like I owed him something for the picture.

Monday, February 14, 2005

On Getting What We Get

In response to the comment on the Non PC Ponderings blog, of course this is true. If anyone knows me personally, they know that my life is a prime example of one getting what they get.

For the gay parents though, there is a bit of a twist to this: we are CHOOSING to give kids a certain hand, if you will, in life. For better or for worse.

Most parents don't choose to have kids and divorce two years later forever forcing their kids to balance two worlds etc. etc.

Some parents choose to have kids and pass on incredibly intelligent or athletic genes.

Some people with genetic dysfunctions choose to not have kids because they would rather not pass on the potential genetic problem.

In this social experiment, we are actively choosing to have a kid KNOWING that they will experience some social repurcussions of our sexual preference/orientation. This is fascinating and I have seen many people (gay and straight) judge this choice. I am not analogizing this to a genetic disease, but to a social one. It is akin to a mixed race couple having kids and then facing racism

Of course, I think the FYO will be fine. More interesting even for this experience. But that does not negate the fact that it is a particularly unique and interesting social experiment.

More on Loss

BioMom brought up an interesting point this weekend in response to my Non-PC Pondering. She wonders why we are so defensive about acknowledging any sort of loss at all.

Furthermore, she wondered why we rush to the outcomes to prove that there isn't a loss.

This was a fascinating point. Even if we can prove that ACGPs are categorically performing as well as their heterosexually-oriented counterparts, does that necessarily mean that there is not a loss in experience for the FYO to not have a dad? BioMom even suggested that the experience of the loss itself might (will) transform her in some way, possibly a possitive way, but she may STILL experience the loss.

Why are we so afraid of acknowledging this?

It seems even more exaggerated in the case of two lesbian parents of boys. Although I think the boys will adjust fine (especially if they have adult male role models), one cannot ignore the loss.

One more thought experiment: the gay male parents. Now that I think about it, with all of our hangups as a society about motherhood, this must be what the Christian Right freaks about when they think of gay parents.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Getting Dooced

From today's Washington Post.

Is Sponge Bob Gay????

Thanks to HFRM#1 for the head's up:

Christians issue gay warning on SpongeBob video

and from Robot Johnny

My Favorite Hax Column

Hi Carolyn:
I believe in "the spark"; the spark is a good thing. But I must ask, by when should it happen? I do believe it has to happen at some point, but I am not sure, now that I am dating someone who is kind, thoughtful and shy, how long I should give it.
– Sparkless So Far

Dear Carolyn:
I am a guy in love with my roommate, also a guy. We've been friends for years and actually dated in the beginning. It was a short, hectic romance that did not end bitterly. We are both very mainstream, all-American guys. I think part of the fascination for me is that we make the quintessential gay suburban couple – busting the stereotypes. Now the tricky part: He may not feel the same way and I am petrified about trashing our friendship. I am twisted sick with not knowing if this could work out.
– Never Learning

Dear Carolyn:
I'm about to be married after a five-year courtship. My fiancee is wonderful and very pretty, but I'm not attracted to her right now. Is this just "marriage" come early or a sign of problems down the road?
– Maryland

Dear Carolyn:
What do you think about being friends with exes?
– Missouri

If "the one" is the mother of all romantic ideals, "the spark" is her beautiful, maddening, free-spirited sister with the infectious laugh who brings extravagant gifts for everyone and then goes off lemur-watching in Madagascar and doesn't send so much as a postcard until three years later when she blows in for another surprise 36-hour visit.

But isn't she great?

I can't conceive of a life commitment where there never was a spark. Imagine wondering, all your life, what you've missed? Even if it doesn't burn brightly ever after, the memory of it alone generates warmth and light.

But don't even try to plan around it. It happens, it doesn't happen, it's instant, it takes years, it makes a muttering dork of anyone who tries to outwit it. Some say if it isn't immediate, it'll never happen. Some say the immediate spark is the first to flame out. Some say it's overrated. I've given days, weeks, months full of profound and tortured thought to the elusive concept of spark, and I have come up with this:

Isn't it great?

These four letters, fresh off the forklift, suggest you guys haven't done a whole lot better in the profound-insights department. But I do see patterns, some basic properties of electricity:

1. Spark trumps logic. Quit thinking, "Sparkless" et al, and take each date on its own merits. Did you have fun? Yes/No. Do you want to see this person again? Yes/No. Do you want to date this person at the exclusion of all others? Yes/No. You don't work toward electricity, you just get hit by it, and you're not going to get hit by it if you're holed up with the first person who seemed sorta nice. You've got to be out in a field twirling your umbrella at storm clouds. Date! date! date! as many people as you can, offer to pay occasionally, keep your clothes on and see what crackles.

2. Spark trumps friendship. To Mr. "Never Learning" and the rest of you who are pining in private for your so-called pals: One more melodramatic refrain on preserving the friendship and I'm going to hurl on your violin. A "twisted sick" person who is using every ounce of self-control to suffer quietly through the motions of friendship because he's afraid that's the only way he can stay close enough to breathe the giddy air that surrounds his One True Love is not my idea of a friend. So out with it – say it, show it, whichever feels right. (Note to Never Learning: Please get your motives straight first.) And if you fail, take it like a man. That goes for women, too.

3. Love trumps spark. Lightning gets attention, but compatibility holds it. You know you're in crush when someone hangs on every word of your third retelling of the Great Show-and-Tell Incident of 1982. You know you're in love when, 10 years later, that same someone still thinks it's the funniest thing ever – and you haven't slept together in weeks. Electricity has to give way to staying devoted and staying interesting to each other, or it'll just snap away to nothing. "Maryland," are you still in love? Can you see life with anyone but your fiancee? Is this low-sex deal what she wants? Talk, think and decide what you want – together – or "down the road" will be off a cliff. Speaking of which . . .

4. Sparks die. Thus the romantic-cliche proximity of "rekindle" to the word "flame." But I have it on discouraging authority that when sparks go pft, they tend to stay there. That authority is a sex therapist friend who found that, couple after couple after couple, she was merely doing a volume business in helping people face the friendly, low-voltage truth known as "marriage." (Obviously, some marriages stay sparky – but if yours is one of them, I'll bet your friends don't want to hear about it.) The ones who grasp Rule No. 3 make it, she says, the others don't.

Which makes the phenomenon of The Friendly Ex all the more impressive. The Friendly Ex is the former lover, now buddy, who allegedly harbors the awe-inspiring, physics-defying, pft-proof spark that makes new girlfriends and boyfriends quake with jealousy and fear . . .

Because they just don't get it. Onetime couples who've lost the spark can make great, safe friends.

Onward to something else? Please?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A New Acronym

SGSE for Same Gender Spousal Equivalent

See today's column by Carolyn Hax of the Washington Post

Dear Carolyn:

My same-gender-spousal-equivalent (SGSE) and I have been together three years. We had a commitment ceremony last May and have been wearing rings on our left hands since then. My SGSE hasn't told his (Catholic) family about the "wedding," though they accept us, and we sleep together when we visit. SGSE is not out to Grandma, and she's old-fashioned, though he's her favorite grandchild.

On our latest visit to Grandma, SGSE's mother asked us to not wear our rings. I was incensed, and complied grudgingly. SGSE would not stand up to Mama, who is generally very sweet, and I've been mad ever since. I hate going back in the closet. I feel like I don't want to visit these people again. Was I wrong to swallow my convictions?


If anyone's looking for reasons to support gay marriage, I can suggest four: "same," "gender," "spousal" and "equivalent."

Perhaps you did swallow your convictions on closeting. But you apparently did so to uphold your convictions on meeting family halfway, on keeping your symbolism and Grandma's feelings in perspective, on supporting your SBFTFTMCLMOMIMJ (spouse-but-for-the-fact-that-men-can't-legally-marry-other-men-in-most-jurisdictions).

You've won 98 out of 100 battles, real and potential and tough, with this family -- an average most straight couples quit hoping for. You were gracious in reflexively conceding this latest skirmish. Any hangover from that, you should discuss with your SBFTFTMCLMOMIMJ; don't take hostages out of spite.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ghosts of Students Past

Today has been interesting. At one point I casually picked up the phone only to find a former student calling from Cairo. Incidently here's a link to his travel blog. Which hasn't been updated recently but is interesting nonetheless. I also finally got to reading an email from a former student who said:

I just thought of your class because yesterday was "homeless rememberance day" (or something of that nature...i usually accuse hallmark of trying to drum up sales w/ new holidays, but somehow I don't think they have a hand in this one!?!?!?). Anyway...I remember your question; do you buy the person a bananna or give them the dollar and let them (choose) buy the beer? The group that the article was about bought some care packages and handed them out to the local homeless.....wonder if the guy w/ a roll of toilet paper would have really rather had a beer????

Nice to know that my random musings affect people. Just to redeem myself slightly, the discussion was about how the government should deal with poverty and probably along the lines of the economists' concerns about giving food stamps versus cash transfers. Anyway, this line of thought was provoked by a discussion with a friend of mine who is Irish and a cultural studies professor at George Mason. Anyway, we were going to a movie and stalling for time at a gas station near the theater. Anyway, there was a homeless guy outside and I thought about giving him a banana from inside the store. She totally berated me and said I should just give him money instead.

Why should you decide the best way for him to use the money?

This is actually not obvious and quite interesting. On one hand, it is my money and I should have some say in what he does with it if I give it to him. Her point (I'm not sure if it is the "other hand") was all about thinking of it as "my" money. Instead, I should think about how it came to be my money and my (our) cultural issues about deservedness. This was fascinating to me and lead to a complete reinterpretation of the Irish in my mind. Anyway, she was saying, why should I consider myself to be more deserving of having a beer, say, rather than a banana, say, just because I had the kind of opportunities in my life that led me to have money and choices and he did not.

What an interesting reversal to the usual American line of thought: he obviously is a lazy %(*# and can't make the right decisions. I should give him a banana so that at least he gets something good in his body today. . . blah blah blah.

Anyway, that's where that came from, for better or for worse.

Non-P.C. Pondering

Last night the FYO was talking with BioMom about anything and everything. At one point she says

I wish I had three parents.

BioMom: Oh yeah? Why?

FYO: So I could have a dad too.

This is an evolution of such ponderings on behalf of the FYO. At one point, after hanging out with Sidekick, she said something to the effect of wishing she had a Dad. I responded by saying that I bet Sidekick wished she had a [insert blog author's first name]. The FYO quickly retracted her desire.

We respond with all of the things you're supposed to respond with when confronted with this question.

But you have TWO moms! How lucky are you?


Well, there are all sorts of families. Some people have one mom, other people have one dad, some people have adopted parents. . .


The important thing is to not talk with her like there is some sort of loss.

But this point nags at me. Is there really no loss?

I just had lunch with a psychology professor here and talked with her about this issue. She said that the research she has read shows that most ACGPs grow up completely socially adjusted.

Yeah. But that doesn't really answer my question. I guess I want to know. I want some sort of measurement that could compare two well-adjusted two-parent families, one lesbian couple and one heterosexual couple. Can we measure a difference in the "outcome" of one kid having a dad and one kid not. Of course, I'd also like that experiment to have been conducted in a vacuum in which there was no social disapprobation associated with homosexuality.

The professor went on to tell me that some kids get angry when they find out how they were conceived but after that, there is no measurable difference between ACGP's and their heterosexually-parented counterparts. See this post for a link to all of the studies I know of which say the same thing.

But the question still nags. I'm sure its not PC to say this-or even think it for that matter-but isn't there still a loss from not having a Dad? Again, assuming a good, involved Dad. A Dad's Dad.

I can imagine some losses. What about some school dance where girls take their dads? Is there some benefit for a heterosexual girl to grow up with a male in the house? Would it give her an advantage in living with one when she becomes an adult? Is there some advantage to experiencing a man and a woman interacting? Can lesbian parents proxy this? If gender is a continuum, is the FYO experiencing enough gender diversity in a relatively more feminine BioMom and a relatively more masculine step-mom?

The jury's out, but the PC police will (I'm sure) be in (soon).

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Development and One's Sense of Humor

It has been amazing watching the FYO begin to develop a sense of humor. Once in a while I'll hear her laughing hysterically out loud while watching cartoons or something.

Last night before bed, instead of our usual two books, the FYO wanted to do these kindergarten flash cards that she's had for a few years.

Incidently, its not that she's so brilliant. The kindergarten cards, in my opinion, are way too easy for most kindergarten-aged kids. They consist of fairly easy pictures depicting actions such as a mouse covering her eyes with a rabbit covering her ears and the caption asking something like Who can't see? Or recognizing letters of the alphabet, etc.

My evidence for their level of difficulty is two-fold:

a) the FYO knew all of the answers at age 3.5 without even warming up and
b) the first-grade cards are much more difficult, providing questions that demonstrate a huge cognitive leap relative to the kindergarten cards.

Anyway, the FYO wanted to "do" the easy cards last night so we indulged her.

When we got to one card that had a huge letter "Y" on it, and the question read:

What letter is this?

The FYO barked out:


To which I responded,

Not "why?" I'm asking you what letter that is!

She howled. And it went on and on like an Abbot and Costello skit with her giggling and me insisting that she was asking "Why?"


Monday, February 07, 2005

The Universality of Counting

I was recently at a coffee shop eavsdropping on a mother overseeing her two young boys. I thought that they were speaking French, but wasn't sure until I heard the mom say

Un!. . . Deux!!. . . Tois!!!. . .

With an increasing sense of purpose and intensity.

My giggle caught her eye and we had a moment of what I perceived as complete comprehension and sympathy.

When you think about it, the counting thing is really strange.

First, it is not associated with any negotiated bribe or demand. Its not (usually):

I'm going to count to three and if I get to three and your coat isn't on and you aren't heading toward the door, I'm gonna beat your %#(*&$!

Unless the lack of negotiation is based on some prior history, it seems to be a universal understanding that counting equals seriousness and is associated with some sort of punishment (perceived or real) at some point in the near (and fast approaching) future.

Even the number itself is not negotiated. Why is it assumed that three is the upper-limit? Why not four, or seven or ten?

Given all of this, why do kids fall for it, and why does it seem to be so universal? Why don't kids take context into consideration:

French kid's should-be rational thought: Dude. I'm in a coffee shop with tons of adults around me working and socializing, there are no other kids, and I know Mom's not ready to go. What's she gonna do? Spank me in public? Drag me to the car? Throw a glass of water at my face? Put me in time-out in the bathroom? Take away my already finished cocoa? What?

Second, the other weird thing about the counting is that it seems to be one of those inherent parenting techniques.

Witness myself. I am not a biological parent, and came on the scene at about 17 months. Out of nowhere, I hear myself saying (in a loud-pitched-demanding that is voice full of expectation and authority):

One!. . . Two!!. . .

It was as if my father had stepped into my body.

Of course, we all get it from our own parents. But I'm just surprised at how universal this strawman of a threat really is. Let's hope the FYO doesn't figure it out.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Gay Hadj

So, to make up for forgetting our anniversary in December, I decided to get a head start in planning a surprise for Valentine's day.

Here was my plan: organize a sleepover for the FYO at HFRM#1's on Friday night and go out to eat at this restaurant that a quirky colleague of mine recomments, and then out for live music afterwards!

HFRM#1 and I made this whole plan where she would host FFFN at her house etc. etc. Our only concern was that BioMom would have an issue with not being able to control FFFN, and making sure that she actually comes home after work rather than her usual practice of having a few drinks with co-workers and showing up late for FFFN.

Oh, and included in my plan was this big buildup about how I don't have any plans for V-day. And that whatever we do must include the FYO.

This morning, however, BioMom foiled all of my plans.

Sweet woman that she is, after a fairly raucus evening at some friends house and two bottles of liquer later, she got up this morning, went out to get some coffee snack for me and the Sunday paper. Inside the paper she smuggled a Valentine's card for me which consisted of a flight itinerary for San Fransisco next weekend!!!

All of a sudden I'm all I'm Here I'm Queer Get Used to It!!!

We're heading to Gay Mecca!!!!

Friday, February 04, 2005


This is going to be another one of those "am I missing something or am I just homophobic?" posts.

Its choose-your-kindergarten-time of year around here so our neighborhood is buzzing. At least three local neighbor kids are going to school in the fall, and a few more the year after that so the stakes are high. The deal is, we don't have a neighborhood school, so we all go into this lottery.

Anyway, I got to talking with a neighborhood lesbian mom at preschool-drop-off this morning about it all.

Have you gone on any of the school tours? She asks.
We haven't. BioMom has been set on Catholic school for some time, hence the circle-tour of liberal catholic churches in the area. See also this post for background details.

The other mom then says something to the effect of being interested in other kinds of diversity (race, class etc.) intimating that the good schools in the area are lacking that.

It took me a bit to catch on. I think she meant that the gay/lesbian issue is one of diversity and that somehow the public schools have that figured out. But that by going to one of the good schools (which are about 2% poverty, and .0000002% African American) you sacrifice the "other kinds" of diversity.

I felt immediately defensive about this. It seems to me that the kid population in all schools will be (if statistics are correct) equally "diverse" when it comes to sexuality. Yes, it is possible that Catholic schools may be less likely to attract glbt staff than public schools (of course, that doesn't count the nuns or the priests. Let's just count the "out" folks). But more importantly, I guess I never really considered this aspect of diversity important enough to seek it out:

Can I ask, what percentage of your staff is gay or lesbian? Bisexual?

This is absolutely not to say that I don't want the FYO to have positive GLBT role models. It is, however, to say that that wasn't what I was looking for in a school.

On the sexuality front, all BioMom and I were looking for was a school that would accept her family and not make her feel like a freak.

On the diversity front: well, this is a rock and a hard place. And, again, I guess I must define diversity here. To me diversity is in part race and class. Sex/gender and sexuality possibly on a more secondary level. Furthermore, diversity is about having a diversity in thought, approaches to the world, and to teaching. More than diversity itself though, in terms of a school, I would appreciate the promotion of diversity in all its forms.

What is difficult though, is that diversity (defined on the simple demographic scaless of race and class) is nearly directly correlated (negatively) with test scores. There is certainly an argument to this: even though on average a school does bad, that doesn't mean your kid does bad.

But that's a hard vitamin to swallow when its your kid.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Question We've Been Waiting For

Tonight at dinner with BioMom the FYO asked

Mom, does it take a man to raise me?

Biomom: Do you mean does it take a man to make you?

FYO: Yeah.

Biomom: Yeah. Where did you learn about that?

FYO: It was in a book that I read at school.

After that, the FYO abruptly changed the topic.

Sound Familiar?

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote
Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times

September 3, 1967
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

....A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began in January, 1966, to which President Johnson gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu, the chief of state, in Honolulu in February.

The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Deim was overthrown by a military junta.

Thanks to Dr. Jodi Vandenberg-Daves and Daily Kos for the link.