The Tutor

Sometimes drastic measures are necessary, right? Sometimes the circumstances are too perfect and you wake up in the middle of the night knowing exactly what to do to fix everything. Then you spend the rest of the night sitting up. You find yourself unable to set it down for fear that you might not savor every thought your imagination can come up with for it.

That was me last Thursday when I came up with my brilliant plan for getting my protoge (and yet-to-be-minted boyfriend) to pass his college algebra exam.  It’s the old story, girl v. boy; physics major v. undecided freshman; tantalizingly sharp, witty, and creative woman v. well… okay, he was all cute and nervous and I had to break him. Nicely. Almost.

Thursday.

Never start any tutoring session in math with “Look, it’s really very simple,” even if you follow that up with “if you can get all ten of these factoring problems right in half an hour we get to have sex.” It was a brilliant plan meant to solve his math problem and my lack-of-sex problem, but doomed to failure. First of all, we’d never had sex before. Actually I was pretty sure that he’d never had sex before in his life.

Secondly, well the boy couldn’t have been worse at pulling apart equations if they’d had two clasps in the back and he’d had to do it in a dark room. The disaster went more or less like this:

(nervous, anxious Tom slides his paper at me and theatrically slams his forehead down on the table while I grade him).

“Well… they’re… half right.” I say, generously, after spending a few extra minutes scribbling notes for him to study later. I’d had this notion somehow that he just needed the proper motivation and he’d sail through.  I had even worked myself up, saying “today’s the day.” I had just been disappointed.  

And then my disappointment got the best of me…. I stood up.  Pushed my chair back. Tom started to get up and I said, “No, keep your seat.”

“Damnit, I’ve never been good at math! And you telling me we’re going to have sex afterwards isn’t going to…”

“I didn’t say we were going to have sex afterwards.”

“But -

“I said we’d have sex if you got all the questions right.”  I sat down on the table in front of him so that he had a clear view up my skirt and then undid the bowtie knot on one side of my panties. He tried to get up. I put my foot between his legs. “I said keep your seat.  That is, unless you want nothing.  You got half the questions right.”

Stunned silence. I used it to take my underwear the rest of the way off. “Put your hands behind the chair.” Now he grinned, and I knelt down and tied his hands behind his back with my panties.

“Emily, you can’t.. uh…”

“What?” I held his gaze as I grabbed the buckle of his belt. “Do you want me to do this or not?” I was genuinely worried he’d say no.

“Well, I mean you can’t just… you said I had to get the questions right,”

“Well, if you don’t want me to do this, just say stop and I’ll stop. But until you do…” I pulled the belt buckle apart and watched as his cock jumped inside his pants. Then I pulled at the button.  Every movement was causing a reaction in him – the button’s pop made his thighs tense.  Unzipping him made his cock grow and press his briefs out from his body. The scent of his arousal nearly made me toss away my delicate plan, but I resolved to follow through with it.  

“Please don’t stop.”

I pulled his briefs down in front and put a hand around his cock and squeezed until I could feel his pulse course gently through it.  Then I ran my tongue from the base of his cock to the top and began to go down on him.  I was all slow and firm – careful to keep aware of where he was along the way.  He’d only finished half the questions.  I didn’t think I had long, but that was fine.  I took every inch I could comfortably take and started a rhythm, in, out. Squeezing, then letting my hand slide along his cock, slick as it was from my sucking on it.  

He groaned and I knew it was time to stop.

“Half right.  Tomorrow you’ll be better, right?”

“Yes… Can I have my hands back?”

“Why, what are you going to do with them?” I could see his cock still throbbing, trying to finish what I started, but without his hands… “I think you have to wait. You were only half-right, so you’re only going half-way today. I wouldn’t like to find that you’d gone all the way without me. That would be like cheating on your exam.” He looked horrified now.

“But you can’t just leave me tied up like this! I can’t study!”

“Your blood really is gone from your brain right now… Silly. I’m just waiting for that to calm down” I pointed at his hard on, causing it to throb and twitch once more, forcefully.  I reached one hand up my skirt and fingered myself for a sec, letting off some of my own tension, then touched my wet fingers to his lips. “I’m going to sit here and grade while you take care of that.  Study my notes.  I’ll be back tomorrow.”

It took almost ten minutes or so for him to compose himself. I undid his hands and he put himself right before I kissed him goodnight and walked out the door.

“See you tomorrow, sweetie.”

He actually chuckled and blushed, now amused and a little more determined, “Tomorrow, Emily.”

Friday.

Friday was… better. For one thing, it doesn’t really matter that school only happens three days a week for me as a senior, or that I really like my classes.  It’s still Friday, and the little kid inside celebrates the end of the week because it is ended.  

There’s actually a farmers market on the campus quad this morning, so I drag myself out of bed at 8 with a french press full of coffee and the promise of a giant cinnamon cake donut from Betty’s stall.

I had a few dreams the night before, of the kind that happen after you spend an hour teasing a guy and end up teasing yourself just as much. I considered the little pink vibe I’d bought myself to start the year, but on thinking about the possibility that he might just get a perfect score on his exam today, I thought I might hold off.  

 

It was an absolutely beautiful sunny day.  The farmer’s market was full, and my eye was on Betty’s Breads’ stall at the corner, where a beautiful, funny old woman in her seventies bounced back and forth on her feet as she tossed donuts and pastries to an adoring student populace.  I waited for it to die down a bit.

“Hey Betty!”

“Well, hello there Ms Emily. Blow anything up this week?”

“No ma’am, you’re thinking inorganic chem. They don’t let physics majors blow anything up after their second year.”

“Ha! That’s a damn shame… What can I fill your belly with?”

“Oh…” The flavors changed every week and I had to be quick before people piled up behind me. “Rum-raisin with the brown butter glaze.  Good grief where do you find the time to make up new ones?”

“Chemistry major.  Would you believe I still blow the occasional donut up?”

I giggled, “Probably, yeah”

“$2.50”

 

I took my donut and a sack full of vegetables to cook at Sheryl’s apartment over the weekend and sat in the shade of the arboretum. As it happened, Sheryl  had the same idea and found me on my bench and sat down.

“So?”

“So… hi!”

“How’d it go?” My best friend was as obtuse as always.

“You know, I’m a physics major. We’re all autistic and direct and shit. If you want to know something, you gotta do better than ‘so’”

She huffed, “So did you nail him? Is that direct enough, miss autiste?”

“Ha! No. Nearly…” And I regaled her with my tale, being lurid enough that I could hope later that she had “untoward thoughts” about me.  We’d fooled around once, and I enjoyed the notion that I might be in her thoughts on lonely nights.

“Well, damn…  I mean, damn!”

We both sat in silence for a few minutes. I smugly ate my donut and sipped my coffee, and she sat in awe of my creativity and self-control.

Eventually she broke the silence. “So you’re tutoring him again at two? Guess you’d better hope he’s got it figured out this time.”

“Guess I’d better”

“I’m gonna run.  You have fun with that and you can tell me all about it tomorrow.  And for christ’s sake learn how to cook an eggplant before you come over this time!” She glared at the contents of my grocery bag.

 

Tom sat in his chair with memories of yesterday as I shoved a freshly printed piece of paper across the table with 20 factoring questions. “I studied,” he said, as he took up a pencil and furrowed his brow to concentrate. Oh I bet you did…

I couldn’t handle the pressure this time.  I got up and went outside and paced in the sunlight, saying “40 minutes. 20 questions.  Take your time…” as I left.  I walked back in 15 minutes later, and he had all the questions done, sitting there with the top three buttons of his shirt already undone and a goofy grin on his face. “I’m done. Got it this time!”

I took his paper and said shit to myself as I saw a mistake on the third question.  It turned out to be the only one…

I graded.  

I handed the paper back.  “That’s a 95%”

“But that’s an A!”

“It is,” but you had to get them all right. That’s what I said yesterday. What do I do now?  Fuck! Work with it…  “… it’s ‘good enough’ to pass the exam, but I wanted you to blow me out of the water.” I pulled a length of rope out of my pocket that I’d brought along for just this occasion.  “And I think you can. You’ve got two more days before the exam. In the meantime, hands behind the back.”

“But it’s an A!”

“Do you want merely good or do you want perfection? I can give you perfection, but only if you bring perfection to the table, too.”

I tied him up.  I unzipped him.  I pulled his pants down to his knees and drew my fingernails down his thighs, hard enough for him to thrash against the chair a bit, but not hard enough to break the skin.  I tied his ankles to the chair.

“95% is pretty good, don’t you think?” I kissed him. Deeply. No need for him to actually respond to that question. He was already beginning to understand the answer.  I stepped back.

I’d like to say that I performed a full strip-tease for him, but I honestly didn’t have the patience. He was so close! I pulled off my top, unhooked my bra, and had unzipped my jeans before I said “It is good.  It’s very good, and you’re going to have a good time before we’re done today, but I did say ‘all the questions’” As I said this last phrase, I stepped out of my jeans to show off the red lace g-string I’d worn for just this occasion.  

His cock was so full it looked like it was on fire. I undid his shirt and exposed his blonde-furred chest, biting his pec hard enough to make him cry out, but I still didn’t leave a mark.  

“Fuck!” He grinned as he exclaimed it.  “Fuck you’re hot…  do you plan these things?”

“Oh, I make it up as I go along, sweetie,”

I kneeled down, straddling his lap with his hard cock pressing against my stomach, bare, tantalizing… He started to lean forward. I pushed my breast against his mouth, gripping his curly brown hair tight.  The boy had instincts.  His teeth were gentle, his tongue thorough, and I could only wish his hands held me, but for now the feeling of complete control over this was elating.  I groaned and savored his attentions until I needed more.  

I went down on him, and it was epic. He was already wet at the tip and his juices made my tongue tingle as I worked him, teasing him closer. “Are you going to let me come?”

I laughed with his cock still in my mouth, making it jump and him groan in frustration. He had his answer.  I kneaded his balls trying to edge him closer as I continued to suck, and he squirmed in his seat.  I felt him trying to keep calm, I supposed he hoped I wouldn’t notice he was about to come. I stopped abruptly enough to shock him, and then stood up.  

I took the sides of my panties and pulled them away from my hips theatrically and stepped out of them,

“That’s not a nice grin,” he managed to say with strained breath.  

“Do you want me to stop?”

“No.”

I sat down, naked on his lap, his cock buried in my bush. I kissed him deep. And I ground against him, pleasuring myself against his cock.  I nearly lost it. I rose up and ground down so that his shaft slid between my labia, taking extra joy in the amount of tension I was building up in the boy and in the delight this appeared to give him. He was so close.  

“95%” I let him wrap his mouth around my breast as I held there, thighs tense, hovering over him, and I pressed as hard as I dared press with the tip of his cock buried between labia, one inch away from abandoning the whole game.  I considered it.  He pushed up with his hips, and I stood up.

“You’re going to do it perfect for me tomorrow, aren’t you?”

“Yes! Oh, yes. Yes, Emily,” he said, talking to me like a teacher, and I giggled at the fantasy but I admit it turned me on a little.   

I did manage to un-strip tease for him, pulling on one piece of clothing at a time and doing so at angles that gave him something to imagine might happen tomorrow.  But i had a better plan for tomorrow.  And I had full confidence he was going to get it right next time…

 

Saturday. Today. Now, even.

 

I really want to have a story to stun, embarrass, and titillate Sheryl so she ignores my crappy garlic eggplant. Oh, and I really, really, really, want to have sex with this boy. Tom is 19, smarter than he thinks he is, has fuzzy curls of dark brown hair he hasn’t ever figured out how to comb, and apparently now has a submissive streak a mile wide I can play with.  

I have a little bag with me when I get to Tom’s honors dorm suite. He opens the door with a flourish, and the smell of fresh coffee greets me at 11am on a Saturday. The boy is beginning to know me. “Hey sweetie! I’ve got it this time, I know I do! I did a hundred exercises last night just to make sure,” I’m sweetie now, apparently. I smile. That’s okay. “Sweetie” is cute and it fits him.

“That’s great,” I manage, awkwardly, “There’s a hundred and ninety pounds of you between me and the coffee.  Is that wise?”

He steps aside, excited enough that I’m sure he’s had at least one pot himself. I sit down.  I set my bag on the counter, and I pull out a folder with a fresh sheet of questions… and a little pink remote control with a round dial on it.

“What’s that?”

I manage not to snort. “Alright, so. Up til now, we’ve both been good, right?”

“I’ve… held off, if that’s what you mean. You did too? Damn.” He was clearly impressed.  

“Shit is right. So today is the day. You have to get all the questions right, and you have to do it in the right amount of time to get the ones on the test done. That’s faster than we’ve done it before, so I brought motivation”

I hold up the remote control and put it in his hand, then pull out my favorite piece of moulded silicon, which just so happens to be attached to it.

“Oh!” He turns bright red and nearly drops it. I take it from him and flip it a bit to let him hear it buzz.

“So here’s the deal.  I’m a physics major. I like to experiment on myself, and so I know more or less exactly how long it’s going to take me to come from this. I’m going to turn it on and use it and you’re going to do your exam questions,”

“But –”

“And every time you get a question right, you get to turn it down a notch. If you get a question wrong, I’m going to take the remote away from you. Then I’m going to turn it up the way I like it and finish in front of you right here and all you can do is watch me with your hands on the desk. Otherwise, well… the timer’s running, and when I finish, we’re done.”

His smile melts, replaced by a hungry look. He leans in and says conspiratorially, “Let’s do this.”  

I pull my panties off under my skirt and set them on the desk next to him. It’s fun to see how far he likes to be pushed, and things just keep coming to me.  I take the dildo and make a show out of inserting it, adjusting myself so that the vibrator portion is going to do it’s thing, and then hand him the remote.  

“Turn it up to where the tape is.”

He starts to turn it up slowly. Too slowly. “Tom. It’s not going to bite you. Turn it on!” Ahhhh….

“Timer’s going,” I hand him the sheet, feeling the first waves of buzzy pleasure starting as he diligently begins working problems out on paper.

He finishes a problem. I glance over my glasses at him and nod. He turns it down one notch and keeps going.  

Another.  

Another.

I can feel the pleasure no longer building up; staying steady as the vibrator has faded to a tingle inside me.  I’m almost disappointed by this, but that’s my body whining.  I know what I really want.

And on the last problem, he finishes and turns the vibrator off, and I say “sub i.”

“What?”

“x sub i”

“Oh! Shit!” He grabs the remote defensively, and I grin at him, but take the dildo out and set it on the table.

“The question is whether you think the professor would take off for that,”

No professor in her right mind would, but this boy’s a freshman and they can still be terrorized.

“Hands behind the chair” I take out the rope.  He looks panicky. “Would the professor take off for that kind of mistake?”

“No!”

“Are you sure?” I tie him up. I forego the striptease again on purpose, deciding this way’s more fitting, and bare myself before him proudly, daring him to hope for release.

“No…?”

And on that question mark, I go down on him, undoing his buckle, button, and fly in one smooth motion, practically dragging his pants off him this time, I’m so eager.  His cock tastes wonderful, and I begin to forget myself for a moment until I realize he’s close.  I ease off him, this time, wanting him to stay hard for me,

“Please… Emily,” stressing every syllable of my name as I get up and walk back to the table to grab the vibrator. I straddle his thighs with the control in one hand and the dildo in the other, and I slide it into me, turning it to my favorite position. He’s so stunned now, he can’t really say anything, and I work the vibrator harder and harder. Pleasure is coming in waves, and his thighs feel electric where they touch me. I hold his head against my breast as the first wave of orgasm strikes me and cry out as I lose control and come. One, two, three waves of force threaten to take me off his lap, and I pull the vibrator out. I let it fall to the ground, and I grind my wet pussy against him.  

“Perfect.” I manage to say between waves, and I lift myself up slightly and bare down on his cock at the height of my pleasure.  

“Oh fuck yes!” he exclaims as he realizes he’s inside me finally and I pound the fact home to him in long, slow thrusts. I fuck him. I fuck him and as I feel him getting closer, I reach behind and undo the knots binding his wrists. I want to feel him grab me by the hips and pound my ass against his thighs as he comes for me.  

Maybe it lasts a minute. Maybe an hour. I see lights behind my eyes every time I envelope him. Then his grip on my hips becomes unbreakable as he thrusts up against me and I thrust down just as hard.  “Emily!” he exclaims, and the last syllable becomes an “aagh” and I thrust into it, holding him tight, and feeling him come.  

 

It’s fifteen minutes later, and we’ve moved to the bed. I reach down to see if he’s coming around again. As I feel his cock leap to life, he grins and says “Thanks. I’m never going to fail a math test again.”

First collection

Tags

, , , ,

I’ve collected my stories for the Nook! For those of you familiar with my stories, even if you haven’t got a Nook or an iPhone or an iPad (all of which will read these eBooks just peachy), please do hop over to my page on bn.com and review or rate me!

My first collection, entitled Alt contains:

  • Hipster Girl
  • David
  • To my Girlfriend, who loves details

I will be releasing a second eBook tomorrow or so, called April Morning, that will contain two previously released stories and one brand new story entitled “Chocolate,” excerpted below:

Chocolate

I’m somewhere between electric excitement and utter end-of-the week exhaustion. Meeting after meeting after meeting, and toward the end of the day – who schedules a 4:00pm meeting on a fourth of July Friday anyway? – I just felt like throwing a big blanket on my cubicle and pretending it was a big fort.

I pull into the drive way, flip off the car, unbuckle my seatbelt and open the door in one single motion. That one little sleight of hand’s all I’ve got to show for all those self-defense and karate classes Mom made me take when I was fourteen. When I get to the front door, there’s a whiff of something in the air, and as soon as I find my keys (buried in my purse as soon as I got out of the car – doofus) and get the door unlocked, I’m assaulted by the fragrance of dark chocolate and cooking cherries.

“Hi hon!”

“Hey you! I didn’t hear you pull up!” He rounds the bend of the kitchen, tries not to trip over his own feet, and suddenly his arms are around me and it feels just wonderful, “Happy birthday, love!” He looks so excited.

“I love you, too,” and I do. I kiss him. He tastes and smells like Nick and chocolate.

“Cake’s just about in the oven. Cherries are on low. Fresh-made ice cream’s in the freezer.”

“Sounds great! I’m gonna go change,” I head upstairs into the bedroom. Hoping that the post-dessert is going to be as scrumptious as the dessert, I find a pair of panties with ties – the kind that fall apart at the waist when you pull the right string – and a deep red front-clasping bra with lots of lace. I slip them on, but before I can get any outerwear on, Nick’s in the doorway.




An open letter to the Democratic congress

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Health care is the single most important issue of our times.  It has always been apparent that we don’t yet have the political will nor the right economic landscape to do what is right — a single payer system and universal health care for all.  Too many people are too afraid of the consequences.  Too afraid that we can’t get it right.  To be fair, we’ve not shown them something that works yet.  We’ve not shown them in many, many years that a Congress can do something right, at least not something big.

However, it is also apparent that right now we have a chance to pass a public option.  That option will grant new freedom to millions of people.  Freedom to pursue opportunities that might otherwise be too risky to take; but whose potential payoffs for themselves, their families, and their fellow Americans are great.  Freedom for people who have until now merely dreamed the American Dream to pursue it.

Think of an economic recovery fueled by people unafraid to pursue entrepreneurship, advanced degrees, higher education, because they don’t have to worry that they can’t find health care for themselves and their families.  It’s a better, stronger, more responsible, and politically easier recovery than one fueled by billions of dollars of scattershot public spending on corporate bailouts.

This public option will only stand if there are people willing to stand for it, not merely as part of a larger package, but as a non-negotiable part of that package.  More than 60 representatives have pledged themselves to that cause, saying that health care reform is not reform unless there is a strong and workable public option. But 60-something is not enough.  I encourage those of you who have not yet committed to stand with our President and with us.

The voices against a public option, and against health care reform are loud, and their voices have banded together, making them seem louder and more numerous than they are.  They have also stirred the fears of people who already live in fear, making them afraid of this reform, this change.  Once it is done, over time, much of this fear will go away. Don’t be afraid to stand with us.  We will support you.  Serve the people of your states, reasonably, fairly, and with honor. The rest will attend to itself.

How I hate misleading graphs

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Note to redditors who have linked to my article and are whining about how it supports the tea partiers, it does NOT. Let me be clear.  Thesis: The graphs from the Tax Foundation are misleading.  The trend in tax burden is perfectly reasonable given the data and not unfair.  My own personal opinion:  Income has become more stratified and the top 1% are making a ridiculous portion of the total income.

Lord. Read, folks!  This article explicitly states how the graphs from the Tax Foundation on personal income tax are misleading. It specifically states that it  is perfectly reasonable for  the top 1% to be  paying more taxes than the bottom 95% because of the increase in the percent of  total national income they account for. Please stop inundating me with comments calling me a teabagger. Now…  on with the show:

So, the Tax Foundation recently released their Fiscal Fact 183, which itself is a piece of responsible journalism if you read the entire thing and digest the data for yourself, but that which surrounds it is not.  In fact, now going to the top three pages of google items on “top 1% of taxpayers”, the rage is all about how the top 1% of taxpayers now pay more in taxes than the bottom 95% of taxpayers:

google-results

Now first of all, let me say: this is 100% true. However, this statistic, though true , is profoundly misleading.  Here is the graph as it was released on the Tax Foundation’s blog (not part of Fiscal Fact 183, but rather an opinion post of one of their bloggers):

blog20090729-chart1

So what’s wrong with this chart, exactly?  Well, first we’ll start with the title.  It’s very clear what they want to show you, that’s true.  There’s also the question of where 4% of the taxpayers are.  Why do we not select them?  Because using their methodology, and using the bottom 99% of taxpayers, the lines wouldn’t cross. Take the top 5% instead of the top 1% and their argument doesn’t sound as convincing.  They wouldn’t be able to use their snappy title.  Oh, and let’s define tax burden vs. tax rate.

  • Tax Burden: The amount of taxes one group of people pays vs. the total amount of taxes paid by everyone.
  • Tax Rate: The amount of taxes one group of people pays vs. the amount of income they declare.

Now for the less obvious things: psychological impressions I get looking at this graph. It’s not like they had staff psychologists analyze this graph for effect, because if they had it wouldn’t be so ugly, and because that would be just plain conspiracy theory.  No, but the lines along with the text of the blog post this is embedded in make it look like there’s been a conscious shift of burden from the bottom 95% to the upper 1%.  In fact, what they want you to believe is that things are more unfair in 2007 than they were in 1987 (back in the halcyon days of Reagan).

In fact they never say why the tax burden has gotten so much higher.  Even the Tax Foundation, which originally released the report never goes so far as to link the tax burden with anything else, even though they mention it in the same sentence with adjusted gross income.  They say, and I quote:

In 2007, the top 1 percent of tax returns paid 40.4 percent of all federal individual income taxes and earned 22.8 percent of adjusted gross income. Both of those figures—share of income and share of taxes paid—are significantly higher than they were in 2004 when the top 1 percent earned 19 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) and paid 36.9 percent of federal individual income taxes.

God knows why they picked 2004 as opposed to any other year.  I can’t figure it out, statistically.  That aside, look how they very definitely didn’t say that the two figures track each other, and they make no mention of the tax rate.  For that, we have to go back to their source data.

MyGraphicsA couple of notes first before I explain the graphics.  I’ve changed the methodology somewhat from the Tax Foundation’s methodology.  Like I said, using their methodology but adding the other 4% to compare 99% versus the top 1% would mean that there was no crossing of the tax burden lines.  My methodology preserves the crossing even though I’m using 99% and 1% respectively.  Specifically the change I’ve made is that I use the numbers from the IRS SOI here, same as they do, but I take AGI, income tax minus credits, taxable income, and highest tax rates only from the raw list of the “Taxable returns” columns on the IRS data.

Now to explain the charts and table.  In the table are the percentages of the total AGI, taxable income, and taxes paid declared by the top 1% of taxpayers and the bottom 99%.  This means, for example, that in 1997, the top 1% of taxpayers collected 21% of the total Adjusted Gross Income declared by all Americans filing taxable returns.  The other 99% of taxpayers collected 79% of the Adjusted Gross Income.  The final row of the table has the percentage change from 1997 to 2007.  That calculation is: figure at 2007 / figure at 1997 * 100 – 100.

The left chart shows as a percentage of that declared by all taxpaying Americans:

  • In yellow, percentage of total Adjusted Gross Income declared by 99% of taxpayers, for each year 1997-2007
  • In red, percentage of total income tax minus credits declared by 99% of taxpayers
  • In green, percentage of total income tax minus credits declared by the top 1% of taxpayers
  • In blue, percentage of total Adjusted Gross Income declared by the top 1% of taxpayers.

Note that the green and blue graphs (the 1%) track each other exactly, as do the yellow and red graphs.  The tax burden has decreased directly with the proportion of income collected by the bottom 99% of taxpayers.  The tax burden of the top 1% has increased directly with the proportion of income they collected. In fact, as we look at the chart on the right, the actual top tax rate on each group has remained relatively flat — there’s been a very slight drop in both groups’ top tax rates.  The top 1%’s has decreased more than the other 99%, but that’s not too disturbing given that they’re already nearly 10% more taxed than the rest of the taxpayers.  In fact, if the tax foundation and tea-partiers were trying to get us properly indignant, they might point that little fact out rather than trying to mislead the public into thinking that the tax burden on the wealthiest Americans has increased wildly out of proportion with economics.

Methodology change or not, the shapes of the trends do not change.  Income proportion and “tax burden” as defined by the Tax Foundation and its adherants are directly related.  The changes are not wildly out of proportion, as they’d have you believe; but directly in proportion with changes in income.  If anything seems out of proportion to me, it’s the change in the ratio of income declared by the top 1% vs the income declared by the bottom 99%.  Surely the bottom 99% of taxpayers are not all of a sudden that much less productive that they should be collecting 14% less of the money earned by all taxpayers now than they were in 1997.  What economic force is in play there?

Ethics in modeling the human brain

I was listening to Science Friday last week on NPR and Michael Frank predicted that in 10 years we would be able to produce a complete computer model of the human brain.  Now I take that with a grain of salt, of course (although only a grain or two, since they have successfully modeled a significant portion of a rat-brain), but the thing that bothered me wasn’t the claim, but the fact that the scientists were talking about all the experiments they could do on it, modeling drug interactions, testing drugs in the computer on the brain, and so forth.

Basically, they’re talking about using the electronic model of the brain as a surrogate for experiments they wouldn’t be able to do on a person. But that’s great, right?

Unless, like me, you’re not a mind-body dualist, and increasingly conscioussness researchers are not mind-body dualists.  In fact, not “increasingly,” but rather pretty well universally as much as you can get in any scientific field.  It’s not Newton’s Laws, but it’s still pretty well accepted that the mind is the matter.

No-one will listen to me.  I’ll be one of a very few voices clamouring on the sidelines, I’m sure, but I think that if we have a human brain modeled “perfectly” inside a computer then we have a human brain for all intents and purposes.  It has rights and expectations.  It will feel emotions.  It will react to stimuli.  It will be capable of conscioussness if it’s modeled as well as they’re promising, and therefore I would expect the IRB to apply the same rules to experiments on this subject as it would any wetware human.

That won’t happen.  It’s a damn shame.  We’ll commit the same kind of horror that we’ll look back in 200 years on and think how horrible people were back then.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small...”

Headlines from the week that was, July 19th

Checkmate? The role of gender stereotypes in the ultimate intellectual sport. A new study by the University of Padova, Italy’s Social Psych department reports (abstract quoted here)

Women are surprisingly underrepresented in the chess world, representing less that 5% of registered
tournament players worldwide and only 1% of the world’s grand masters. In this paper it is argued that
gender stereotypes are mainly responsible for the underperformance of women in chess. Forty-two
male–female pairs, matched for ability, played two chess games via Internet. When players were
unaware of the sex of opponent (control condition), females played approximately as well as males.
When the gender stereotype was activated (experimental condition), women showed a drastic
performance drop, but only when they were aware that they were playing against a male opponent.
When they (falsely) believed to be playing against a woman, they performed as well as their male
opponents. In addition, our findings suggest that women show lower chess-specific self-esteem and a
weaker promotion focus, which are predictive of poorer chess performance. Copyright # 2007 John
Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Telegraph reports that women who dress provocatively are more likely to be raped while the headline of the research is actually that promiscuous men are more likely to commit rape. That’s a lot of bias to throw into a single headline, not that this is surprising in these dark days of journalism. Not only did they err in the headline, but they reported an MS student as an “expert scientist” and her findings were, as she put it, “very preliminary,” but this was not detailed in the article.  I detest bad science journalism along with the rest of the scientific world, who watches with horror as journalists scrape articles that portray us as interested in the trivial or obvious, or that we get gigantic grants to study whether or not people like sex, or confirm peoples’ biases when the opposite is actually concluded in the paper, or report scientific conjecture as actual fact. Or any of the other things science writers and headline writers do day after day.

My absolute favorite science journalism to hate is journalism on science about sex or gender.  They tend to get so tongue-in-cheek, laughing uncomfortably at how their stereotypes are confirmed, or that they got to use the word vagina in an article in print.  Hur-hurr journalism at its finest.  The telegraph’s article is no exception.

Can you love and work? A Salon opinion piece on a “sympathetic” article by NYT journalist David Brooks about how something must be wrong with a woman who’s that passionate about her work. After all, no family and a string of “failed relationships?” “There must be something wrong with her”, as the Salon article sarcastically points out… Oy.

Jack Vance, the Genre Artist. A nice retrospective on the life and work of the 92 year old Grand Master of fantasy and science fiction.  This is the man who brought us most of the source material for Dungeons and Dragons (the Dying Earth series), and brought an air of highbrow literature to the pulp fiction aisles of the 1950s and 60s.  He expanded my vocabulary as a kid, and the best of his writing challenges and enlightens.

Why I will not be getting a Kindle (bonus feature: Debating Google Books)

Tags

, , , , , ,

An article from the NY Times noted that the other day, Amazon stripped its customers of certain of their eBooks at the request of their publisher, which said that it no longer wanted eBooks of its holdings on the market. Yes, stripped.  They took them right off their Kindles the next time they signed into the net.  Amusingly, 1984 and Animal Farm were among the books stripped.  Now, people were issued a full refund, but…  where does this leave us?

As long as we’ve had books, we’ve had the notion of owning our books.  With the current legal climate in the US and the EU and the deftly avoided Righteous Anger of publishing and author’s guilds, Amazon has licensed eBooks on the Kindle rather than flat out sold them to their customers. What’s the difference between licensing and owning, you may ask?  Well, exactly this – the licensors can revoke our licenses as per the conditions in the license. Most license agreements are revocable at will, meaning that whenever the company felt like it, and for any reason (or no reason), it can revoke your license to the work without recourse.

I don’t want my books to expire.

I don’t want my books to be censored.

I don’t want updates to my books without my explicit permission.

I don’t want my books to contain ads (a recent Daily Finance article speculated that they are thinking of this based on patents held).

I don’t want to have my child or his children walk into their schools and have their banned books erased off their Kindle-like devices.  I don’t want my books to become unreadable overseas because a particular book isn’t published or is banned in that country.  I don’t want an author to pull all his or her books off my Kindle in a fit of pique with their publishing company.

In short, I want to own my books, damnit!

This is why we need serious competition in the eBook distribution and device market.  This is why we need consumer protections, the same kind of consumer protections that we enjoy now with our dead-tree books.  This is why we should push back against publishers and authors’ guilds who look at the tide in intellectual property now and think they can change the way things have always been, monitor and manipulate our information and our things.

What else have our guilds been up to?  Well, there was the Google Books scandal awhile back, and I’ve been watching a one-sided train wreck of a discussion by authors in a mailing list I’m on whinging about how the Authors’ Guild that they’re not a member of negotiated away their rights without their permission, setting precedent by settling with Google on scanning books that are still in copyright.

You can go to the library, any library in the entire US, Canada, EU, and most of the other nations of the world and pull a book off the shelf, take it to the clerk, and for free, or in the case of inter-library loan, for a nominal fee, take it home, read it, and return it.  Admittedly, the supply-side of Google Books is of a different scale than your public library.  They can serve up millions of copies of book-excerpts at once, and because the medium is different readers don’t have to return them as there’s no transfer of property.

However, the music and movie industries have already discovered much to their dismay that they cannot control the dissemination of electronic information.  It cannot be done.  No format can be made so secure (analog hole if nothing else can copy anything) that it cannot be copied.  No legal force can catch and sue millions of people.  Information on the internet spreads just like the viruses that spread on the internet.  It’s only been 10 years since Napster, and look at where we are.  The music industry giants admit that they’re defeated (although they’re going to fight for a few more years until the price-point becomes too costly).

I’m not arguing that it’s right.  I’m not arguing that it’s fair.  I’m not arguing that authors and publishers shouldn’t try to make money by selling books.  But the internet is a fundamental change in dissemination of information.  It has routed around every law and firewall and attempt to control it.

The Kindle, if it keeps its inconsistencies up, will die or be hacked.  The publishers will go bankrupt if they fight this way.  The authors will go bankrupt and all die of heart-disease if they fight this way and scream this much.  Someone more dedicated to the means than me will find a way to make money pushing books over the internet without paper, and that person will make billions of dollars and the publishing industry will cry to Congress and like bodies for protection from their mistakes and short-sightedness.  But like the monks who copied each book painstakingly by hand in large rooms filled with feathers and ink, they will disappear in the tide.

Shame your senators

Tags

, , ,

I know this is a little behind, since the article I’m linking to was authored on the 17th of June, but I don’t think it’s too late to shame the Republican senate for this, especially since the resolution is still tabled!

Condemning the use of violence against providers of health care services to women.

Whereas Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Kansas, was shot to death while attending church on Sunday, May 31, 2009;

Whereas there is a history of violence against providers of reproductive health care, as health care employees have suffered threats, hostility, and attacks in order to provide crucial services to patients;

Whereas the threat or use of force or physical obstruction has been used to injure, intimidate, or interfere with individuals seeking to obtain or provide health care services; and

Whereas acts of violence are never an acceptable means of expression and shall always be condemned: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate–

(1) expresses great sympathy for the family, friends, and patients of Dr. George Tiller;

(2) recognizes that acts of violence should never be used to prevent women from receiving reproductive health care; and

(3) condemns the use of violence as a means of resolving differences of opinion.

Scary stuff, huh? I mean, the Senate condemning violence as a tool to resolve conflicts over abortion… what will that lead to next? More Dead Babies!!!  The hold put on this was done so anonymously (any senator can put a hold on a resolution without giving name nor reason as per their rules) by a Republican senator who was not Olympia Snowe (she was a cosponsor).  However, since we don’t know who did table it, I encourage anyone reading this who has Republican senators in their state to speak up and say that this is unacceptable.  We pass nonbinding resolutions all the time, praising, condemning, and and taking note of events, and because of it’s nonbinding nature, it’s not like it actually makes any real difference one way or another whether this is actually passed.  Not one life will be saved either way.  However, it would be nice to have faith that it is the position of our legislative body that vigilante “justice” against law-abiding, law-observing citizens is condemned.  If our senators have no faith in the laws they help pass or the system they uphold, then who is supposed to?

I realize that the pro-life camp is frustrated with their standing in society, and that they think that people who perform abortions are condemned, but dealing out death is abominable and should be condemned.  If the case warrants the Senate’s attention at all (and I would say it does), then the criminals and the crime warrant the Senate’s disapproval.

Is it about constituents and believing that they’ll alienate their voter base, or is it their own personal belief that this act wasn’t wrong? Cynical, petty, reprehensible politicians.

Please shame your Senators.

Gotta lurve Fox News…

Really, they don’t even try.  Most important story in the very recent past, in terms of U.S. news: The announcement of a nominee for U.S. Supreme Court Justice.  What does Fox consider important?

gottalurveit

Guys, do you really even try to pass yourselves off as news anymore?  I swear, the “news” organization parody in Babylon 5 all those years ago reported things in a less biased manner.   First of all, “it’s the showdown you won’t see anywhere but on FOXNews.com”  Yeah.  You won’t.  Because American Idol vs. Britain’s Got Talent is the least important thing that’s made it to the front page since…  well, since CNN.com’s Person of the Year was YOU!  And only on FOXNews.com would you see it being given more space than the new supreme court justice nominee, and more than the partial (and I hope eventually pyrrhic) victory of the Prop Eighters.  Of course, if the marriages hadn’t stood, I could tell you with some certainty that it would have made the front story instead of the second story, but any kind of defeat, however partial means that Fox should deny that it happened slightly. We also have “Obama declares war on gun owners” making a headline and “Sotomayor’s controversial statement”.

What a banner day for American ‘Mainstream’ Media…  guess I’ll be watching the Daily Show tonight.

Circumcision

It’s unusual that I feel the need to comment on an article in Time magazine.  But despite the fact that there are a lot of things implicit in this person’s attitudes that tell me he and I wouldn’t get along in a lot of the issues I talk about here (notably polyamory and implicit attitudes about the chastity of women), I think he brings out an important question about the main point of his article, namely circumcision. Being a circumcised male, I don’t have any perspective on the loss of feeling that might have happened or about whether it helps or hurts my health.  I also wonder what the difference would have been, and as an otherwise largely unadorned person, aesthetically, I think I would have preferred to remain uncut.  But that’s just it — it ought to be my choice, my preference, and if I’m worried that I might catch an STI from not being circumstances based on a single study, then I could go out myself and have it done. There are reasons to circumcise out there, I’ll grant you.  If you’re particularly prone to infection and you suspect this is genetic (say yeast infections and so forth), then maybe that’ll help. It’s been shown to by multiple studies, after all.

Now, no, male circumcision isn’t anything like female circumcision and the two don’t really bear comparison.  But why is it socially acceptable to remove a perfectly functional and useful part of the anatomy at birth just because of ancient custom?  I mean, we could just as well take out a baby’s tonsils at 18 months to prevent them getting bronchitis and pneumonia.  Or we could take out the appendix laproscopically to prevent them getting appendicitis. These are both equally if not more prophylactic surgeries than male circumcision, but no-one would do something so un-necessary to a child.  Okay, not no-one, but not most people.

The study that says that male circumcision is a health benefit are new, unreplicated thus far, and the reasons for the prophylactic effect of circumcision aren’t clear, and well, decisions about sex ought to be left up to the people having it.

I have to say also that I’m a bit … disgusted by his wife’s reasoning that she “doesn’t want to have to touch his penis too much” when she bathes him.  Oh, please.  Are we really that prudish still?  Or rather, even if we are, don’t we feel the slightest twinge of guilt about forcing compliance with that prudishness on our children at so young an age?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.