bookmark_borderEither bad or mad

Originally uploaded by Patrick Denker

There’s an important article in The Times today about how to deal with pædophiles.

It basically argues that we normally either punish criminals and then let them get back to normal life afterwards (even though we know they might reoffend), or we decide they’re ill and offer them treatment (possibly for the rest of their lives) instead.

However, we seem to want to do both when it comes to pædophiles: First we punish them, and we then stigmatise them for the rest of their lives because they’re sick.

I had never thought about this before, but I think it’s true.

When it comes to deciding whether to opt for bad or mad, I think we should split the group into two.

An 18-year-old who had consensual sex with a 14-year-old is not a pædophile in my book, and if we think it’s not OK, it’s definitely a crime, not an illness, and when he’s completed his punishment, he should be free to live a normal life afterwards.

On the other hand, middle-aged men raping small kids are in a very different category. It makes much better sense to try to cure them of their urges in high-security psychiatric hospitals and only release them back into society when (or if) the psychiatrists think they have been cured.

bookmark_borderThe reality of the long tail

Long-tailed Tit
Originally uploaded by Sergey Yeliseev

There’s an article in Slate discussing whether the long tail is as long as has been thought. Please do read it.

I think there might be a lot of truth in this, and I think it’s got to do with knowledge: In order to buy an obscure book or film, you first need to know it exists. It simply is not very likely anybody will pay money for a random song from iTunes that nobody has recommended to them.

Because of this, I think the size of the long tail is depending on online communities. If people mainly get their information from TV and other mainstream media, they’re going to buy items from the head, not the long tail.

Only if many people get a lot of their information from blogs or Facebook groups or other specialised contexts is it likely that the tail gets really long.

bookmark_borderMaths and languages

Originally uploaded by Robert Scarth

There was an article in a recent issue of The Economist arguing that it’s better to do maths or languages at high school rather than more specialised subjects such as economics:

Few economics faculties demand that applicants produce an economics A-level, and most pupils who study the subject at school do not pursue it further. Second, the curve-shifting brand of economics taught in schools is qualitatively different from the complex modelling required at university. Economics is not like foreign languages (also, and more regrettably, in decline in secondary schools): there is no particular reason to learn it young, when time could perhaps be better spent acquiring general mathematical skills.

I couldn’t agree more. When I started studying computer science at university, my problem was not that I hadn’t done computing at high school but that I hadn’t done enough maths. Similarly, biology (at least in Aarhus) often turns down applicants who’s specialised in biology in high school rather than the more fundamental skills of chemistry etc.

I tend to think there is too much choice in secondary schools these days. It’d be much better teaching all students copious amounts of maths, chemistry, grammar, modern languages (to a fluent level!), history and other fundamental disciplines.

bookmark_borderSurname equality

O Donnell 1 Norton
Originally uploaded by jane_lyons2000

There’s an article in The Independent today about a guy who’s taken his wife’s surname.

Although this practice is not that common in Denmark, I think the UK is quite a bit behind Denmark in this regard. I definitely find it utterly bizarre that anybody would assume that a wife had taken her husband’s surname without asking her.

I also think Mr. Myddelton (né Dyer) should go to the European Court of Human Rights to get his £34 back – surely that’s a clear case of sex discrimination if a woman in the same situation wouldn’t have to pay!

bookmark_borderSuitcase on wheels

Kiddie suitcase on wheels
Kiddie suitcase on wheels

While we were waiting for our suitcases in Stansted two days ago, two kids walked past me sitting on pink suitcases.

This looks like a great idea! Suddenly carrying their own luggage becomes a game for kids…

Only problem I can see is to keep them away from slopes in all disguises, or your kids might suddenly travel a bit faster than is advisable at that age.

bookmark_borderA trip to the rain forest

Originally uploaded by PhylB

Yesterday, we all went to Randers Regnskov.

I mainly picked it because it’s fairly easy to get to using public transport (take the bus from Sdr. Vissing to Skanderborg, and then the train straight to Randers), but I actually think the kids liked it.

In Randers Regnskov, most of the animals roam freely in the same area as the visitors, not just butterflies and snails, but also snakes, monkeys and vultures.

The kids were allowed to help feed the manatees and the monkeys (the latter with live crickets), which they greatly enjoyed.

(BTW, if anybody else is going there by public transport, don’t forget you can get a combination ticket.)