The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This is a book-cum-movie review since I read “The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” not too long before the movie “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” came out. Both are highly recommended as they are very funny.

This is a book-cum-movie review since I read The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy not too long before the movie The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came out.

Douglas Adams is funny in a very British way and I like Brit humor. So I found both the book and the movie hilarious. If you ask, however, which I liked better, I would have to say the books.

The Ultimate Guide is said to be a “trilogy” but it contains 5 books. All were good except probably for the last one named Mostly Harmless which got a bit strange in an un-funny sort of way.

The movie was also good. I am not a purist about such things, so I had no problems with the differences between the radio show, books and the movie. Plus hitchhiker’s guide already has lots of versions. But there are a couple of saccharine movie moments which are very unlike the spirit of the radio show or the books. Also, the two heads of Zaphod Beeblebrox were not handled very well in the movie. I would have preferred the two heads to be visible together. I would rate the movie an 8/10.

Motherhood and Careers

Via Political Animal and MoJo, I learned about some recent research about how motherhood affects careers. It seems like a common, though anecdotal, observation that women with kids have to pay a penalty in their careers. People usually think that mothers are not as serious in their careers as non-mothers (fathers or childless people). This assumption is there despite any objective facts about a specific person. This preliminary research1 bears out this observation about irrational attitudes. Here is the abstract:

Survey research finds that mothers suffer a substantial per-child wage penalty that is not explained by human capital or occupational factors (Budig and England 2001; Anderson, Binder and Krause 2003). Despite clear documentation of this pattern, the causal mechanism producing it remains elusive because existing research has not been able to distinguish between productivity and discrimination explanations for the motherhood wage penalty. Drawing on status characteristics theory and the literature on the cultural contradictions of motherhood, we suggest that status-based discrimination may be an important factor. To evaluate this argument, we conducted a laboratory experiment in which participants evaluated application materials for a pair of same race, same gender, ostensibly real job applicants who were equally qualified but differed on parental status. The results strongly support the discrimination hypotheses. Relative to other kinds of applicants, mothers were rated as less competent, less committed, less suitable for hire, promotion, and management training, and deserving of lower salaries. Mothers were also held to higher performance and punctuality standards. Men were not penalized for being a parent, and in fact, appeared to benefit from having children on some measures. We discuss the implications of these findings for the theory presented and for enduring patterns of gender inequality in paid work.

The researchers created a bunch of similar resumes for high-paying management jobs with the only differences being in parental status. They signaled the parental status by listing PTA membership in the resume and names of kids along with marital status in the cover letter. I think all applicants, whether they had kids or not, were married.

The results of a review of these job applications is shown in the table2 below:

Female Applicants Male Applicants
Mothers Non-mothers Fathers Non-fathers
Competence 5.19 5.75 5.51 5.44
Commitment 67.0 79.2 78.5 74.2
Days allowed late 3.16 3.73 3.69 3.16
Percent score required on exam 72.4 67.9 67.3 67.1
Salary recommended 137,000 148,000 150,000 144,000
Proportion recommend for management 0.691 0.862 0.936 0.851
Likelihood of promotion 2.74 3.42 3.30 3.11
Proportion recommend for hire 0.468 0.840 0.734 0.617

It looks from the table that the reviewers rated the mothers less competent, less committed to their careers, proposed lower starting salaries for them and recommended them less for initial hire or promotion. The hierarchy among these four categories seems to be:

  1. Female non-parents
  2. Male parents
  3. Male non-parents
  4. Female parents

The difference among men was much smaller though than among women. Again, I recall some anecdotal information similar to this hierarchy. For example, it is considered cute and good when a guy has a picture of his kid as his desktop background during a job interview but the same thing from a woman can cause some doubt as to her commitment to work.

Continue reading “Motherhood and Careers”

Rock City Gardens

I have been to Rock City Gardens a few times. It is located atop Lookout Mountain at the border of Georgia and Tennessee.

I have been to Rock City Gardens a few times. It is located atop Lookout Mountain at the border of Georgia and Tennessee. However, this trip wasn’t planned. We went to hike in Cloudland Canyon State Park but we had to abandon our hike after seeing the waterfalls. So we decided to go to Rock City Gardens instead. Not fair compensation, but better than heading home.

View from Rock City Gardens
Another View
In another direction

Actually, you can see better photos on the Rock City website.

Islam by Fazlur Rahman

“Islam” by Fazlur Rahman gives an interpretive history of Islam. It is a slim volume and focuses on Fazlur Rahman’s opinions of the major theological developments. It is nevertheless very readable.

I read Islam by Fazlur Rahman quite some time ago but didn’t get around to reviewing it. The book gives a sort of interpretive history of Islam over the last 1,400 years. It is a slim volume and focuses on Fazlur Rahman’s opinions of the major theological developments. It is nevertheless very readable.

Fazlur Rahman has been dead now for almost two decades and this book was written in the 1960s. His book is definitely still one to be read but there are a few things that have become dated:

there is every danger that the Muslim countries will be taken over, one by one, by totalitarian regimes of the Communist type.

Fazlur Rahman does somewhat conflate secularism with the Soviets and considers secularism along with communism to be major threats. That is no longer so but this fixation of secularism with communism was very common in his times and is jarring for us now. Fazlur Rahman considers secularism and nationalism (“nation above everything else”) to be specific dangers to Islam and Muslims. Due to this, a lot of American hawks would not have liked him, if he lived now, despite his modernist ideas.

An interesting thought (and very attractive to me) in the book is that the Quranic injunctions are not eternal in the sense that later scholars decided. For example, in the case of slavery, the spirit of the Quranic legislation exhibits an obvious trend towards freedom of the slaves but slavery was not abolished. Obviously, Muslims never really abolished slavery until modern times. One reason (a theological one) is that scholars began interpreting Quran as a legalistic text and making the allowance of slavery, for example, eternal. A better approach is to look at the Quran as a moral text than a legal one. (See my post on slavery and Islam if you are interested.) A system of ethics can then be developed from the Quran and the legal issues derived from that.

Fazlur Rahman’s opinion about Hadith (Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad) is controversial and will probably please nobody except me. On the historicity of Hadith, he sides mainly with the modern scholarly consensus (?) that most of the Hadith does not actually date from the times of the Prophet. However, he thinks that it does represent a living tradition from the earliest generations of Muslims. Now that our only link with that time is the Hadith, we cannot disregard the “ethos of the Hadith,” but we can analyze and study the history of the hadith to establish that ethos.

His comments on education are also interesting. He thinks that classical education among Muslims was too limited and focused too much on commentaries on previous work, rather than originality.

Fazlur Rahman perceived correctly that Wahhabism (or Salafism) was a reaction to perceived moral degradation in a society dominated by traditional and Sufi scholars. Wahhabism itself is a fundamentalist literalist movement but it shares with the modernists the idea of ijtihad (independent reasoning) being alive and needed. Traditional scholars, on the other hand, were rigid in sticking to the rules set forth in the early centuries of Islam. It seems to me that traditional ulema, who have a lot of sufi influences and superstitions, are on the way out.

There is also this about the revivalist movements of modern times:

purely activist movements … devoid of the spiritual depth of the old Sufi brotherhoods … become coteries, narrow and intolerant. Indeed, they borrow techniques from Fascism and Communism.

Overall, it is a book I would recommend to anyone who is interested in Islam and modernism. Next on my Islamic reading list is a Ph.D. dissertation titled “The Beginnings of Islam in Syria During the Umayyad Period” by David Cook (hat tip: Brian Ulrich).

London Bomb Blasts

My heart goes out to the people who died in the London bomb blasts. I hope their murderers are caught and punished soon.

I am a bit late in blogging about the London bomb blasts, but I didn’t have anything original to say (and my computer wasn’t working either).

The three bombs on London underground trains on Thursday exploded almost simultaneously, police have said.

Scotland Yard said the attacks took place within 50 seconds of each other. It was previously thought they had taken place over a longer time period.

Police have also warned the recovery of victims could take “days more”.

There have been 49 confirmed fatalities in the bomb attacks, while concerns remain for a further 25 missing people. At least 700 were injured.

However, Thabet, a British Muslim, has some thoughts that echo mine.

Certainly there is a disease, a cancer, which is eating at Muslims in various parts of the world, but moreso amongst some younger Muslims in some Western societies: the need to satiate a lust for immediate ‘glory’ and ‘victory’, where all that is Transcendent can be sacrificed for an instant quick-fix; the modern Muslim version of the one-pill-for-all solution. Who needs to work at life, and struggle through its twists and turns, who needs sabr and tawakul, when you can much more easily blow up your ‘enemy’ and book that multi-bedroom villa in paradise? But this, in reality, is a sickness. It is sick when a car bomb drives itself into Iraqis, cueing for a job to feed their families, by people believe they are doing God’s work; it is sick when a bomb is driven into a mosque in Pakistan where people gather to worship, by people believe they are doing God’s work; it is sick when someone on their way to work on a double-decker bus, and who probably couldn’t tell you where Chechnya or Kashmir is on a map, is killed by people believe they are doing God’s work. No doubt, some people try, and will continue to try, to justify these acts of psycopathic egoism as a struggle for God. This is most depraved and is a ‘spiritual’ disease. The heart does not simply have layers of rust on it, but the whole damn organ appears to be riddled with pot holes from a corroding condition. But there is still hope and mercy for God says He is All-Forgiving.

We must avoid, at all costs, arguments of moral equivalence. Thse are easy arguments to slip into. I do it frequently. If X is bombing Iraqis, Y is murdering Chechens, and Z is causing countless injustices to Palestinians, ought our response be to kill indiscriminately — believing as we do that we will be accounted for each action — without any sense, rhyme or reason? There is nothing “Islamic” about this.

Also, we should refrain from conspiracy theories (UPDATE: this link doesn’t make sense any more as the blogger has changed his post) or crazy stuff.

Happy Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July and a belated Canada day. Also, Amber is 1 billion seconds old today.

Happy Fourth of July and a belated Canada Day (July 1) as well.

Also, happy one billion seconds anniversary to Amber. (hat tip: Neil’s World).

In other news, my Treo is my only connection to the outside world right now. My laptop’s hard disk turned out to have a hardware problem, so I am waiting for Dell to ship me a new one after the long weekend. Our DSL modem also died yesterday. BellSouth has promised that a new one will be shipped tomorrow. And if you have been trying to call us on our landline, it was taken out by the thunderstorm yesterday. We can make and receive calls but no one hears anything other than a high-pitched noise. That also will be fixed July 5.