slythwolf: Some unlucky soul has an incomplete Pai Sho set. (Default)
Yesterday I watched the usually lovely "Growing Up" show on Animal Planet; I don't know if you all have seen this thing, it's pretty cool, the episode titles will be, like, "Growing Up Cheetah", and they will follow a baby animal of that species in some zoo from birth (or as near as they can get to it in the case of rescued animals) to maturity or one year of life, whichever comes first. It's really cool to see how baby wild animals are cared for in zoos, how their development works, how the zookeepers always get attached to them and get all worked up about their becoming old enough to go into the big exhibit or whatever and have less contact with the zookeepers and they always talk about how it's like your children leaving home or whatever. It's adorable. Also, cute baby animals!

Yesterday's episode was called "Growing Up Penguin", and the thing about penguins is that the males and females are externally identical so in order to determine the sex* of a penguin and fit it into your breeding program, you have to do a blood test. Which you don't do until it's old enough that its down is coming off, apparently.

Now, this particular baby penguin was extremely large, and had always been; the egg was large, the baby was some percent larger than the average when it hatched, it continued to be large and after a couple weeks they mentioned omg they had to worry that the parents weren't feeding it too much and I thought OH HERE WE FUCKING GO, they're going to fat-shame a larger-than-average baby PENGUIN for fucksake. But thankfully that was not where they were going with it; it turned out what they were worried about was that apparently if the parents do feed a baby penguin too much it can become dehydrated. But that wasn't a problem here, it was really just that it was a large baby penguin.

And I thought--larger than average. Probably female.

This may not have been an accurate line of reasoning on my part. I realized later that it is in fact raptor species that I know the females are larger than the males. I don't know if that holds true at all for birds in general. But penguins are carnivores, so maybe.

Anyway.

From the time it hatched, they were calling the baby penguin "he".

"It's probably because I have a son," said one of the zookeepers. No, probably not, dude. It's probably because pretty much everyone in the world calls an animal "he" if they don't know its sex, because male is the default. In fact, many people--my own husband included--will continue to think of an animal as male even after they have learned it is female. When I had GSXR, Nigel used to call her "he" all the time and tell her she was a good boy.

The other zookeeper said, "We can't call him 'it', so we call him 'he'," and I shouted at the television, "Why can't you call it 'it'? And why not call it 'she'?"

I do not know if this is the case for birds but to the best of my knowledge, in mammal species at least, populations are statistically likely to contain slightly more females than males. So if that is the case for birds, it would make more sense to call the baby penguin "she", as you would be slightly more likely to be right than if you were calling it "he".

Much was made of the fact that they did not know "his gender". The narrator kept saying things like, "But they won't find out his gender until a blood test can be performed," prompting me to shout at the television, "You assholes have already assigned it one!"

It did turn out that the baby penguin was female. Everyone was so surprised! Why? I have no idea. It was pretty close to fifty-fifty, guys. And if penguins are like raptors and the females are slightly larger, and if birds are like mammals and slightly more females are born, you were actually skewing your odds so you were more likely to be wrong.

But this is what we do in a patriarchy. Everything is male until proven otherwise, up to and including insect species whose actual populations are overwhelmingly female. The possibility that something could be female is briefly entertained, paid lip service, and then implicitly dismissed as everyone continues to call the creature in question "he" anyway.

This is what "male as the default" means. This is why feminists get so pissed off at the use of the word "he" to mean "he or she", "man" to mean "humankind", and so on. It dismisses our existence as unimportant. We are not worth mentioning. Everyone knows women and girls aren't important enough to be included and any animal worth talking about probably has a set of balls.

* The narrator kept calling it "gender". This infuriates me. Animals do not have gender. Gender is a human cultural construct. The biological traits we associate with gender are collectively called "sex". And this pervasive conflation of the two terms drives me just up the wall, because of the tacit assumption that everyone is cis*, which simply isn't true. There is no reason an individual's sex and gender have to be related. And there is certainly no reason to impose this concept on animals; doing so only perpetuates the misogynist concept of gender roles as biologically driven as we describe female dogs as "pretty" and male dogs as "tough" and so on.

WMI vs. BMI

Jul. 9th, 2009 01:48 pm
slythwolf: Some unlucky soul has an incomplete Pai Sho set. (Default)
Okay, so, in the comments at a post at Shakesville (I think), a biologist mentioned that weight, both intra- and interspecies, scales with the cube of linear dimensions (length in long animals, I guess, and height in tall ones). BMI uses the square of height. I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see what the "healthy" weight ranges would be with a formula using cube instead--so I made one.

It's not perfect, for a lot of reasons. First of all, I started with the "healthy" range delineated by BMI for someone five feet tall; I have no reason to believe that that's actually a healthy weight range because, while I know a few people who are about that height, I don't know what any of them weigh, or how healthy they are, or anything. I figure it's probably problematic because BMI in general tends to be, and because the last I heard it was the "overweight" range of BMI that actually tends to be the healthiest--although the average American is taller than 5' by several inches, and my ranges start to differ pretty significantly from BMI's fairly quickly.

Anyway. It's also not perfect because I only did the calculations for people 5-7' tall; I hesitate to say anything about people shorter than that because I'm fairly sure the majority of them are either children or little people. BMI is notoriously inaccurate for children. I don't know how well it works for little people, but their body proportions tend to be different than taller folks', so I don't want to say anything about it without knowing what the hell I'm talking about.

It's not perfect because I don't think the current BMI numbers are as good as the ones we were using until the mid-90s. Unfortunately, I am too lazy to look for can't find the previous numbers. If someone knows them and wants to throw them at me in the comments, I may very well do this over again.

Also I did a lot of rounding. Rounded the numbers for the original formula to the nearest .25, and the weight ranges to the nearest pound. But this is just meant to be a rough idea anyway.

And finally, it's not perfect because there's simply too much variation in the human species to prescribe a weight range for every height. People are like dogs: we come in all shapes and sizes. An Italian greyhound and a pug might both be the same height, but if they also weigh the same amount, one of them is very sick.

So here is what it is. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in pounds by the square of your height in inches, and multiplying the quotient by 703 (to convert it into manageable numbers, I guess). With my formula, you divide your weight in pounds by the cube of your height in inches, and multiply the quotient by 8000 (for reals to convert it into manageable numbers--otherwise you get scientific notation). I call it Wolfie Mass Index, or WMI.

In BMI, a "healthy" range is 18.5-24.9; in WMI, the equivalent range is 3.5-4.75. If you know your height in centimeters, divide it by 2.54 to get inches. If you know your weight in kilograms, multiply it by 2.2 to get pounds.

Height (Inches) BMI "Healthy" Weight Range (Pounds)WMI Equivalent Range (Pounds)
60
95-128
95-128
61
98-132
99-134
62
101-136
104-142
63
104-141
109-148
64
108-145
115-156
65
111-150
120-163
66
115-154
126-171
67
118-159
132-179
68
122-164
138-187
69
125-169
144-195
70
129-174
150-204
71
133-179
157-213
72
136-184
163-222
73
140-189
171-231
74
144-194
177-241
75
148-199
185-250
76
152-205
192-261
77
156-210
200-271
78
160-216
208-282
79
164-221
216-293
80
168-227
224-304
81
173-232
233-316
82
177-238
241-327
83
181-244
250-340
84
186-250
259-352


Like I said, it's not perfect. It doesn't take into account the Italian greyhounds among us; my healthiest non-medicated weight of 126 pounds is considered quite underweight by this formula. And I'd wager the range needs to be extended in the other direction as well. But it's better than what we've got.

Huh.

Jul. 5th, 2009 01:56 am
slythwolf: Some unlucky soul has an incomplete Pai Sho set. (Default)
I've just been reading an article on Stumptuous about menstruation and exercise and there is, apparently, scientific evidence that pain perception increases during PMS. Now, they're talking about soreness etc. from exercise, but we can extrapolate that to all pain, right?

Okay. So here is the thing. I had already heard that the cocktail of hormones in a woman's bloodstream during PMS is the closest it will ever be to what men's hormones are like all the time.

And of course we all know men have a much lower pain threshold than women.

So I submit to you that men feel more pain because they don't have enough estrogen.

Estrogen makes you a badass. You heard it here first.
slythwolf: Some unlucky soul has an incomplete Pai Sho set. (Default)
Bill Clinton is on some news station right now being interviewed, patiently explaining that he believes it's okay to use an embryo for stem cell research as long as you're sure the embryo is never going to be fertilized, but that if there's a chance it could eventually be fertilized and grow into a human being, it shouldn't be used for stem cell research.

No, seriously.

Bill Clinton thinks an embryo is an unfertilized ovum.

I am depressed.

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