Sunday, December 28, 2008

women and maths and chess...

Two New Scientist articles caught my attention recently:

The first is a bit of mathematical obviousness which points out that: "There are few women at the top of science because there are so few women in science. It's simple statistics."
It uses the German chess federation's statistics to support the theory: there, men outnumber women by 16 to 1 (so if all other (significant) things are equal, there should only be a (1 - 15/16 ** 3 = roughly 18%) chance of a woman being in the top three, if I understand rightly).
Which begs the question, why are there so few women in chess/science/etc? Well, this is the subject of the second article...
Which is about a study where they split the (all female) subjects into two groups. One group was told that women perform poorly at maths due to genetics, and the other group was told that women perform poorly at maths due to social factors. Then they gave both groups the same maths tests and found that the 'genes make women bad at maths' group answered half as many questions correctly as did the 'society makes women bad at maths'.
This supports the idea that women being (statistically) worse at maths is probably wholly due to the negative, self-reinforcing erroneous stereotype that women are genetically predisposed to suck at it. Boo society!

I must admit to allowing myself to openly stereotype people more often than I'd like (i.e. than never), but seeing the power of negative stereotypes to destroy the performance of the maths test subjects it's time to at least keep such preconceptions to myself as much as possible.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

mini cd/dvd -> Macbook -> oops!

As I inserted the mini CD for the Tevion "Potent Pad" (which I was sure only contained Windows drivers anyway), I thought "uh, how will a slot loading drive pick up a mini CD?". After a few seconds of silence once I had inserted the disc (and poked it in further with an envelope, to bollox things up further), it became apparent that I should have stopped and thought about it, rather than simply thought about it and carried on regardless...

A quick web search yielded predictable advice such as "power off the machine and use a paperclip to extract the disc" or "disassemble the machine and DVD drive to remove the disk". Since I wasn't keen on scratching the optical mechanism to ruin or dismantling the computer, I kept scrolling until I found the following blatantly obvious and blatantly sensible suggestion from 'ashleyman':
"Or just tip it so the drive faces the floor and give it a few taps!!"

This served me well and I safely removed the CD within 5-10 seconds of gently shaking and tapping the laptop with the slot facing down. Sometimes the solution is so obvious that you can completely pass it by!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

OS X isn't all that great...

It seems like every week or so, OS X prompts me with some system updates that necessitate a reboot (usually Safari and iTunes - why the hell do I need to reboot my computer just because Safari was updated? This is the kind of behaviour people criticised Windows for in the past). I usually leave the dialogue box in the background for a couple of days until I'm ready to reboot, then go ahead.
Every once in a while (month), when I allow it to restart to "finish" updating, nothing happens. I start manually closing programs after getting warnings that each individual program failed to close (although manually closing them causes no problems at all). This time, the Software Updater seemed to hang as well, even though I had already told it to restart my Mac.

In the end, the machine seemed to shut down but the fan was still spinning. After hitting the power button a few times and waiting a minute or two, I held it to force a power-off and reboot. Then, instead of seeing the "Installing updates" dialogue you usually get when rebooting after installing updates, I just got my usual login screen, and sure enough, logging in as normal (after a ridiculous 4 minute delay before the Finder menu would respond to mouse clicks, WTF?) and opening the System Updater started the whole process from scratch.
LAME. Absolutely lame.