Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lili's tip for the day


There's an anecdote about Baron-Cohen on page 21 of the second volume of Richard Dawkins' autobiography, Brief Candle in the Dark. They know each other from way back and both have been a part of the John Brockman stable of pop science authors for ages, so don't expect to ever hear Dawkins apply his famously critical mind to any review of Baron-Cohen's ideas.

They will not be silenced

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

What did I tell you?


Didn't I tell you that psychology is a science utterly compromised by publication bias? Psychology research is like sausages. Believe me, you don't want to look behind the scenes and see how it is made! It looks like another neuro-fad and supposed autism cure is nothing much more than a puff of wet mist. Isn't it time that charities and governments pull the plug on massively funding research into autism, a concept that doesn't map onto reality in any clear or clean way? 

Gotta wonder how many null finding studies of oxytocin the ARC are sitting on, or negative effect studies in general. 

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2088200-everything-youve-heard-about-sniffing-oxytocin-might-be-wrong/


Lili's thought for the day


Tell 'em to stick their unpaid internship where the sun don't shine.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/01/16/why-your-unpaid-internship-makes-you-less-employable/#1338c683c06f


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Lili's thought for ANZAC Day


I do not want to hear a single word about the fine values that Australian military people fought for. We live in a country that mostly shows not a care in the world for the basic human rights of asylum seekers, is a more sexist place than it was 30 years ago, and still sees indigenous Australians facing discrimination every day and living shorter lives. I am anything BUT proud to be an Australian. Our nation is like a spoilt rich brat who has no idea what it is like to fight for survival and has never had reason to reflect on values or one's own shortcomings. Australia thinks and behaves like Donald Trump, the ugly, nasty mess topped of with the self-delusion of the Anzac legend, just like that bizarre thing that lives on Trump's head.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Lili's question for the day


Could this be the popularised new theory about the nature of savants, prodigies, autistic special talents and the gifted that will replace Treffert's popular writing on autism and savants with something better? Does this book have scientific or commonsensical credibility?

Interestingly, the word "savant" can't be found in this article outlining the book's ideas, even though the article is all about the relationship between child prodigies and autism, and the concept of savantism very often appears to belong at the intersection between the world of autism and related intellectual disability and the world of G&T, prodigies and genius. So why aren't the authors writing about savantism? Do they think there is something wrong with the concept?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sexism meets volunteerization in Australia, and I'm not the least bit surprised but I am very alarmed


All around Australia, all levels of government, non-profits and businesses have been converting work roles that were previously professional, skilled or unskilled paid jobs into volunteer roles, often with the same level of duties, recruitment process requirements and hours as the job once had as a paid role. This is alarming enough in an economic climate of recession and high levels of unemployment, but one aspect of this volunteerisation trend, which has been going on for a number of years, is that it appears to be happening the most in areas of work with high levels of female employees. Libraries, museums, hospitals and health services, counselling services, hospitality, beauty, hairdressing, broadcast media, journalism, marketing, environmental services, government cultural services and the events industry in government and private enterprise are employers and occupations that come to mind as participants in the volunteerization trend, but that could reflect my ignorance of other areas of work. This trend of converting jobs in feminized occupations into volunteer roles or internships could be seen as congruent with the well-known and long-established tradition of unequal pay for women, the only difference being instead of being underpaid, now the people performing in these roles, I guess mostly women, unemployed tertiary students and the elderly, get no pay at all and none of the associated rights of paid workers such as long-service leave, sick leave, parental leave etc. The workers are being screwed-over, women are being robbed of employment opportunities, a culture of sexism and the devaluation of women's contributions to society thrives unchallenged in Australia and we must also assume that those who are the recipients of these services will also be losers. 

Can we assume that volunteers, possibly elderly, retired, untrained, impoverished, unemployed or possessing dated qualifications, will give the same level and quality of service as workers appointed to paid roles? Of course we cant. The cost of wages is saved, but I think even within the organisations which convert paid roles into voluteer work, there will be added costs resulting from the new policy. Volunteer coordinators need to be hired, and this role might not be as simple as it might seem, as this role involves managing workers with diverse and varying levels of motivation who often have issues that extend beyond the workplace. Volunteer coordinators probably also have to deal with agencies beyond their own employer, in a role that that certifies volunteering requirements or volunteering credit schemes of schools, universities and agencies appointed by the federal government to run the lives of unemployed people. Burnout appears to be an issue for paid and volunteer volunteer coordinators, which is hardly surprising. Volunteer coordinators will also most likely be called-upon to act as referees for job-seekers, an unpaid role with considerable responsibility. There's also the stress of working in a position that consists of implementing corporate policies about the use of volunteers which could be immoral or illegal.

We also need to consider the possibility of added costs to the organisation flowing on from issues with the quality of work performed by volunteers. This isn't necessarily a criticism of volunteers per se, just an observation that many volunteers will have a casual attachment to the organization that they work for and might have less knowledge of its history and procedures, which could impact on work in process or publicity roles. At the risk of sounding ageist, I must point out that elderly volunteers of 2016 will come from generations that had rates of tertiary education much lower than average levels of education of the middle-aged "boomers" or the "gen Xers", who had the option of taking advantage of free degrees after the Whitlam era and before the "Dawkins Revolution" in the late 1980s. The elderly as a group also have much lower rates of education as the young generations with ages the same recent graduates of university degrees and post-graduate awards. Basic literacy cannot be assumed in retired and elderly volunteers. One report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics gave the proportion of people with an adequate or higher level of prose literacy in the 65-74 years age group as only 27.3% in 2006. The age group with the highest level of literacy found in 2006 was the 25-34 years age group with a level of adequate prose literacy of 61.5%, with literacy levels declining steadily as the ages of groups rose from this age group. 
I simply do not have time to outline the many hazards of employing uneducated or illiterate people into any kind of paid or volunteer role. The scope for screw-ups is beyond imagination. Any organization that relies on elderly volunteers will have to either wear the cost of having uneducated workers or will have to put in place pretty extraordinary recruitment strategies to extract motivated and educated volunteers from this target population. Good luck with that! 

Any discussion of the pros and cons of converting paid jobs into "volunteering opportunities" also needs to consider the little problem that this practice is generally illegal. Unless the organization that the volunteers work for is a non-profit, or the volunteering is a formal vocational placement that is part of an education or training course, I don't see how converting paid into unpaid roles can be legal under Australian law. Common sense tells us that it it immoral to train people to perform a role that has been volunteerised if the trainess have the expectation that their training will lead to opportunities in paid work, regardless of whether or not this training is done within a framework that is legal or illegal.

The only obvious benefit of this form of exploitation that I call "volunteerisation" is the savings of labour costs for governments, non-profits and businesses, but when you look at the big picture everyone loses, especially women.

Regina Titelius (2016) Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital for children axes play co-ordinators. PerthNow. April 7th 2016.
http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/perths-princess-margaret-hospital-for-children-axes-play-coordinators/news-story/3e6d0a6dbbda21a0d2bcff0f1bcec607

Fair Work Ombudsman. Unpaid Work.
https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/templates-and-guides/fact-sheets/unpaid-work/unpaid-work

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Lili's thought for the day


In my personal opinion, I believe a balanced gender ratio goes along with a mentally balanced outlook in activist groups. 

New wave and old-fashioned sex segregation in everyday Australian life, and around the world




Sunday, February 21, 2016

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Lili's rhetorical political question for the day


What does the federal Leader of the Opposition and leader of the Australian Labor Party Bill Shorten look like today? Most of the premiers of the Australian states and territories, Labor and Liberal alike, have joined in the campaign to demand that asylum-seeker children currently in Australia for medical treatment not be returned to the dangerous and unhealthy offshore detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island. These state premiers have shown their humanity, but our two federal leaders, the Liberal PM and the ALP Leader of the Opposition have failed. 

Is anyone surprised at Shorten's failure? Does anyone care now whether he might join the movement? It is simply time to ditch this hollow man, who won the leadership of the ALP over the political corpses of leaders that he had plotted against, one of them a leader who dragged the ALP from the wilderness of many years in opposition in a landslide election to be ousted in his first term as PM by a challenge spearheaded by Shorten. Shorten's psycho-eyes make it easy to believe there could be something behind the allegations of serious sexual assault that have never to my satisfaction been addressed. Time to take the rubbish out, I say!