Mixter, a 6.171 project, launches out of Creative Commons

CC Mixter, at http://ccmixter.org/, has been launched by Creative Commons.  This is a service for musicians to make their work available for sampling, remixes, mash-ups, and other purposes that a middle-aged Boston Symphony Orchestra subscriber wouldn’t understand.  What I do understand, however, is that this system was built as a project in MIT class 6.171 (Software Engineering for Internet Applications) by Ian Spivey and Matt Drake.  It is exciting to see the service apparently live and well.

[Many postings today due to 30-knot wind gusts blowing away my helicopter lessons.]

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Maybe women wouldn’t want to get married if they knew how time-consuming it was

A 40ish friend he told me about life with his twentysomething girlfriend:

  • “I plan the dinner, shop for all the ingredients, choose and buy the wine, cook and clean up.”
  • “We were staying at a friend’s house.  When it came time to leave she was relaxing while I cleaned up and put the sheets and towels in the washing machine.”
  • “We earn about the same amount of money and yet I pay for everything.”
  • “She seems to think equality means doing less than half the work so she won’t ever have to feel mid-twentieth century housewifelike.”

At the same time we know a huge number of women who seem to be good at everything except holding onto a guy long enough to get married, something that they claim to want.  Could it be the case that in the old days mothers sat their daughters down and explained to them how selfish and spoiled most men are and what they needed to do to keep the guy happy?  Whereas now young women are exposed to wisdom from Jada Pinkett Smith, a popular actress:

“Women, you can have it all—a loving man, devoted husband, loving children, a fabulous career,” she said. “They say you gotta choose. Nah, nah, nah. We are a new generation of women. We got to set a new standard of rules around here. You can do whatever it is you want. All you have to do is want it.” (speaking at Harvard, a talk that got her into hot water for being too “heteronormative”)

The implication of Pinkett Smith’s remarks was that a Harvard girl, in virtue of being bright, well-educated, and ambitious, was entitled to these things without doing too much work except maybe on the career part.  She never added “if you’re willing to do the laundry, plan and pay for half the evenings out, straighten up the house in between visits from the cleaners.”

Some of our women friends do seem to have figured out what compromises and efforts are entailed but they suffer through many inexplicable (to them) dumpings and are into their late 30s by the time insight is acquired.  This wouldn’t be a problem except that by this age they are past their best reproductive years and are often rather embittered toward men.

A potential solution:  Find couples where the man is satisfied and not thinking about walking out.  Do time-and-motion studies of the female partner in these couples and figure out how much effort they are putting forth.  Report the results so that single women can decide if it is worth the bother.  Perhaps when they see the data they will come to agree with Isabel Archer in Portrait of a Lady, who, when all around her were trying to marry her off, thought

“she held that a woman ought to be able to make up her life in singleness, and that it was perfectly possible to be happy without the society of a more or less coarse-minded person of another sex.”

[Update:  Some (married) friends pointed out that there are quite a few books targeted at women who want to get married, offering advice.  However this advice is anecdotal and not based on hard numbers gleaned from surveys.  A friend in her 40s pointed out that perhaps by coddling our kids we’ve produced an entire generation too selfish to make a marriage succeed.  This afflicts both young men and women equally with the difference that men have the biological luxury to wait until they are 40 or 50 to figure it out.]

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How girls learn about opportunities in math, science, and engineering

A 17-year-old polo champion is visiting us from Argentina and today was my day to give her the grand tour of Boston.  Naturally the MIT campus was on our agenda.  MIT’s new president, Susan Hockfield, rather than doing something interesting like starting a medical school, has made her first public action beating up on Larry Summers for his musings on why there aren’t an equal number of women and men in super nerdy academic jobs.  Hockfield says that “The question we must ask as a society is not ‘can women excel in math, science and engineering?’ but ‘how can we encourage more women with exceptional abilities to pursue careers in these fields?’”  I felt proud to be doing my share.  I had brought a 17-year-old girl who can do anything she wants to with her life onto the MIT campus to be inspired.  What happened?  Just downstairs from Hockfield’s office we ran into a woman who recently completed a Ph.D. in Aero/Astro, probably the most rigorous engineering department at MIT.  What did the woman engineer say to the 17-year-old?  “I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get any job at all.  There are only about 10 universities that hire people in my area and the last one to have a job opening had more than 800 applicants.”

[Spending the day with a young person is fraught with potential for humiliation.  She looked at my collection of 2000 LP records and asked “What are those?”  When I explained that they were records, she asked “What are records?”  It is too bad that the Supreme Court won’t let us execute 17-year-olds anymore…]

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Merchant of Venice, the movie

Just back from seeing Merchant of Venice on the silver screen.  It is amazing how badly behaved nearly all of the characters are.  Shylock, mostly referred to as “the Jew” and addressed as “Jew,…”, is bitter and unwilling to forgive all the times the Christians have spit on him.  Shylock’s daughter is ungrateful for all of his loving care and trust and happy to run off and never see the old man again for the rest of her life.  The young Christian gentleman is typified by Bassanio, who squandered his fortune on high living and who decides to find a rich chick to marry so that he can pay his debts.  The rich chick Portia impersonates a judge so that she can help the rest of the Christians cheat Shylock out of the 3000 ducats he lent for the fortune-hunting expedition plus the rest of his wealth.  The only person in the entire play who behaves creditably is Antonio, the actual Merchant of Venice in the title.

It is tough to argue with a cast that includes Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons.  Teenage boys will also want to feign an interest in classic theater in order to get into this film, which covers a period in history where all women displayed either beautiful cleavage or entirely bare breasts.

[Those who complain that Shakespeare painted the Jews in a negative light should be reminded that Shakespeare almost certainly never met a Jew.  The Jews were expelled from England in 1290, with their property confiscated by the king.  Shakespeare finished Merchant of Venice in 1597.  Jews were re-admitted to England in 1655.]

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