Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In case you were wondering

I mentioned once that Mrs. Gerbil and I were thinking about parenthood.

Well, I suppose now would be a good time to announce that we are expecting a little gerb!

(Of course, dear reader, you are quite intelligent; and if I haven't already told you in real life, you probably would have surmised this from my newly belly-riffic avatar and the baby ticker.)

Hooray for little April gerbs!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Let them eat wedding cake

Right now there is a bill on the Governator's desk which would make marriage in California gender-neutral. This very same bill landed on his desk for the first time two years ago; and the Governator vetoed it. His rationale was that gender-neutral marriage was against "the will of the people." That, in turn, came from a ballot initiative passed in 2000, Proposition 22, which was supported by just over 60% of the voter turnout. Translation: The material and emotional resources of a group of otherwise free citizens was subjected to a popular vote.

The Governator hasn't officially said that he will veto the bill this time around, but it sure looks like he will. And, if he does, it will be for the very same reason as before.

Today is Mrs. Gerbil's and my second wedding anniversary. To the best of my knowledge, our getting hitched has not caused a single opposite-sex couple to break up, nor has it damaged a single child's well-being. And yet there is a very loud minority which believes that our private promises to each other are a real and immediate threat to a whole bunch of people we don't even know.

I could point you, dear reader, to a slew of peer-reviewed articles in professional journals which demonstrate that, regardless of each spouse's gender, marriage confers more than just legal and financial benefits. I could point you to statistics about the rates of dissolution of same-sex marriages and civil unions, and how these rates are far, far lower than the rate of divorce among opposite-sex couples. I could point you to data that show that children raised by same-sex couples are just as healthy and well-adjusted as children raised by opposite-sex couples.

But I won't. You can go find them if you want, though.

Instead, I am going to issue a challenge. As a social scientist, I know that sometimes one gets results which one does not like; but those results are just as important as the ones that one does like. So I want to see data that suggest that same-sex marriage has a direct effect on the integrity of opposite-sex marriages. Here are the rules:

1) The study must have been published in a peer-reviewed professional journal whose impact factor places it in the top or upper middle tier for the field. (See here for an explanation of why Paul Cameron's "research" is hereby disqualified.)

2) The study must have been published in the last 5 years (i.e., since same-sex marriage became legal in Canada).

3) The study must demonstrate a statistically significant (i.e., greater than expected by chance) proportion of participants cited the availability of same-sex marriage as a major contributing factor in the dissolution of their marriage. Also, all participants must self-report exclusively heterosexual attraction, behavior, and identity.

4) The study must not have any methodological problems. (I probably haven't mentioned this before, but I'm frequently solicited to be a peer reviewer; and I show no mercy on manuscripts with poor research design and/or faulty analyses.)

4) The study must be available in English or German. (Why? Because I can't read any other languages.)

So, there is your challenge. Any takers?

Oh, and I'll eat my hat if anyone can come up with anything.

Here is a picture of the hat. It's my favorite hat, but I'm willing to sacrifice it for science.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tales from the cube

toothpaste for dinner

Most nights I come home from work with a couple of choice stories for Mrs. Gerbil. These stories fall generally into one of three categories: Calls that Break My Heart, WTF?, and Oh My God I Thought I'd Never Get That Person Off the Phone.

Although I skipped kindergarten (I was a precocious little gerb) I do know about sharing, and I think I'm generally pretty good at it. So, I hereby share a handful of vignettes, previously heard by Mrs. Gerbil.

I can't believe we let you into the network
me: Does the member meet criteria for a parity diagnosis?
caller: Yes, she has bipolar disorder and major depression.

(explanation for those unfamiliar with DSM-IV: by definition, you can't have both)

And you are calling now because...
caller: Oh, I didn't think you were open now.

Try again later
caller: Is this DirecTV?
me: I'm sorry, you have the wrong number. This is a mental health insurance company.
caller: Oh. Do you have the number for DirecTV?
me: No. You might try the phone book, though.
(the next day)
same caller: Is this DirecTV?
me: Sorry, no. This is a mental health insurance company. Try the phone book.

How can I help you?