Archive for December, 2011

Gender Specificity and the Internet

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

For some reason I noticed a series of items today concerning male-female differences on the Internet. Enjoy.

Ryan at Mad Art Lab (hobbies include fencing, armor smithing, and D&D) has spent a lot of time thinking about female-specific armor. This post is the happy result: Fantasy Armor and Lady Bits. It includes the following image of a breast(s)plate made by Ryan himself:

[Note: Image removed at Ryan’s request.]

Ryan writes:

Note also that it seems almost perfectly designed to guide sword points and arrows into her heart. They still have to penetrate the armor but, honestly, that’s a design flaw. However, it looks good and makes her feel sexy and badass at the same time. That’s important too.

Author Seth Mnookin (whose name I can’t pronounce, but fortunately I don’t have to read this post out loud), in an otherwise interesting and piece at PLoS Blogs (Context and corrections in writing about autism and vaccines: A case study in misleading your readers), quotes from this fun correction that ran recently in the New York Times:

An article on Monday about Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith, two college students with Asperger syndrome who are navigating the perils of an intimate relationship, misidentified the character from the animated children’s TV show “My Little Pony” that Ms. Lindsmith said she visualized to cheer herself up. It is Twilight Sparkle, the nerdy intellectual, not Fluttershy, the kind animal lover.

This reminded me of “bronies”, whom I learned about some time ago from my Internet-meme-obsessed 14-year-old son, but whom I’d never googled before. Shortly thereafter I was reading this fun piece by Katie Notopolous on Gawker: Hasbro Crushes Dreams of Grown Men Who Love My Little Pony. Notopolous observes:

If you think bronyism sounds like something only a serious pervert living in his mother’s basement would be into, you’re only about 30% correct. To address your immediate question: it’s not ironic. It’s nerdy guys who genuinely enjoy an animated series about ponies. The show has a legitimate appeal to older audiences — high production values, snappy dialog, and a heartwarming message. But the online fan culture of bronies grew out of 4chan, so they have a computer nerd vestigial tail of Mountain Dew, anime appreciation, chronic virginity, and cyberbullying.

The mention of cyberbullying brings me to the last item in today’s round-up of gender-themed links: Rebecca Watson (who is awesome, btw) on how reddit makes her hate atheists. In particular, Watson dissects how the reaction to a 15-year-old girl posting this photo of a book her “super-religious mother” got her for Christmas made her hate them:

Happy New Year, dudes and dudettes (and redditors and bronies and conspiracists). See you in 2012!

Krugman on Romney on Obama

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Cool NYT column from Paul Krugman on Mitt Romney’s apparent strategy of just making stuff up about Barack Obama: The Post-Truth Campaign.

Mann on Schneier on the TSA’s ‘Security Theater’

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Charles C. Mann profiles Bruce Schneier’s view on the TSA’s “security theater” in the latest Atlantic: Does Airport Security Really Make Us Safer?

The first time I met Schneier, a few months after 9/11, he wanted to bet me a very expensive dinner that the United States would not be hit by a major terrorist attack in the next 10 years.

Recommended, and not just because Schneier won this would-be bet. He knows his stuff.

The DADT-repeal Sequel That Everyone Can Feel Good About

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

For whatever reason, the homophobic bigots seem to have a bigger problem with public displays of male-on-male affection than they do with the occasional girl-on-girl smooch. So presumably even the homophobes were relatively unthreatened by this fun event: The first-ever traditional “first kiss” for a homecoming sailor in which both parties were of the same gender:

Oh hey, look: The fabric of the nation did not come apart just because we let two people who happen to be wired differently than the majority be who they are. Good.

More backstory, courtesy of reporter Corinne Reilly (Lesbian couple’s first kiss at homecoming a first for Navy, too):

It’s Wednesday morning around 10:30 when the Oak Hill finally comes into view, its steel-gray bow peeking out from behind a grove of green trees at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek.

It’s been three months since the dock landing ship left home for Central America, and all of the usual fanfare is waiting to greet its crew: crowds of cheering families, toddlers dressed in sailor suits, and the lucky, excited woman who’s been chosen to take part in a time-honored Navy tradition, the first homecoming kiss.

In this case, that woman is 22-year-old Citlalic Snell. She’s a sailor herself, assigned to the destroyer Bainbridge, but today she’s in civilian clothes – jeans, boots and a stylish leather jacket. Watching pierside as the Oak Hill pulls into port, she absentmindedly twists the small diamond ring on her left hand.

A uniformed liaison who is with her explains how it’s going to work: Snell’s sailor will be among the first off the ship, and when it’s time, Snell will be escorted onto the pier for the kiss.

The liaison asks if she’s nervous.

“Sort of,” Snell admits.

As it starts to drizzle, the brow is finally lowered. A handful of top officers are first off the ship, and then comes a young woman in dress blues, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta.

Snell cracks a wide smile.

“That’s her,” she says.

When Gaeta spots her, she smiles, too. They embrace. With all eyes watching, they keep the kiss short, and the crowd cheers.

Alexander on Why COP17 Was Depressing

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Kaitlin Alexander writes in her ClimateSight blog about just why the result that came out of the recent COP17 meeting in Durban was so depressing: What Happened At Durban?

At COP15 in Copenhagen, countries agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. The German Advisory Council on Global Change crunched the numbers and discovered that the sooner we start reducing emissions, the easier it will be to attain this goal. This graph shows that if emissions peak in 2011 we have a “bunny slope” to ride, whereas if emissions peak in 2020 we have a “triple black diamond” that’s almost impossible, economically. (Thanks to Richard Sommerville for this analogy).

The thing is, even the early-peak slope isn’t exactly the sort of thing you want to try to negotiate your first time on skis. A 3.7% annual reduction in global carbon output would be unprecedented and difficult. 9% per year just isn’t going to happen, as far as I can see.

That’s why the Durban outcome was so depressing: It represents an agreement to collectively close our eyes and repeat fervently, “I do believe in fairies. I do! I do!”

I do not believe in fairies. I do believe, however, that by pretending to enable collective action that can limit warming to 2C, Durban helped to ensure that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren inherit a world with 4C warming and beyond.

Mann on the Hockey Stick Graph

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Michael Mann has taken a lot of abuse (some of it hosted on this site) over his original “hockey stick” graph showing that the recent (and ongoing) rise in global temperature is an anomaly.

If you’re going to trash someone, you probably owe it to him to trash what he’s actually saying, rather than simply knocking down straw-man caricatures of what he’s said. So, in that spirit, here’s 16 minutes of Michael Mann speaking for himself:

People like Michael Mann and James Hansen didn’t ask to be public figures. They were just perfectly ordinary scientists drawn by their own curiosity to dig into what was, at the time, the obscure field of using computer models to investigate long-term changes in climate. But these ordinary guys just happened to come across a truth that made them targets for people who are selfish and evil enough to sacrifice the welfare of the entire human race (literally) in pursuit of their own short-term economic gain.

To their credit, scientists like Mann and Hansen have continued to speak the truth despite the persecution it has brought them. If you think your competing truth is more compelling than theirs, go ahead and bash them. You’ll be wrong, and an objective observer will quickly realize that you’re either dishonest or ignorant or both, but hey, that’s what blog comments are for. So go ahead and put yourself on the record, and let history be the judge.

McKibben and Lessig on the Corrupting Effect of Money in Politics

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Bill McKibben had an op-ed in today’s LA Times in which he described being on a panel with Congressmen Ed Markey (D-MA) and Lee Terry (R-NE): What stinks in D.C.

I was a little nervous, because Terry had recently introduced a bill to force the rapid approval of the Keystone pipeline, overriding the president. But we talked back and forth amiably enough, as I explained why the jobs figures for the proposed project he kept repeating were wrong. Markey pointed out that the Canadian tar sands oil that would be transported through the pipeline, far from enhancing U.S. energy security, was destined to be sold abroad. It was all “agree to disagree” harmony.

But then, in passing, I said something that to me seemed so obvious it didn’t even occur to me anyone would object: that it was clearly Big Oil that wanted the pipeline revived, and that it was using the congressmen it funded heavily to make it happen.

Beside me, I could feel Terry bristle. He quickly interjected, something to the effect of, are you saying that we’re “bought off”? And I suddenly felt bad, as if I indeed had said something wrong. I stammered; I tried to say I didn’t know anything about him in particular, that I was sure he’d eventually be part of the solution and so on. But the frost stayed in the air; he seemed genuinely hurt that anyone could think he had a conflict.

McKibben goes on to describe how he looked up Terry’s record afterward, and verified that yeah, he gets lots of contributions from the oil and gas industry, and does indeed vote for their interests 100% of the time. The part that Terry took offense to, it seems clear, was the implication that his votes were in some sense a quid pro quo for the contributions.

This was all very familiar, in that it’s pretty much the whole point of Lawrence Lessig’s Republic, Lost, about which I’ve previously gushed. And in a nice case of synchronicity, there was Lessig on last night’s Daily Show, explaining his campaign against the corrupting influence of money in politics:

They ran out of time, so the interview continued in this online-only clip, which is handy because it gave Lessig a chance to explain his plan for campaign finance reform:

Shearer on Fossil Fuel Companies’ Liability for Disinformation

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Christina Shearer asks an interesting question: Will fossil fuel companies face liability for climate change? She’s not looking at the question of whether they’re liable for selling fossil fuels, but rather at the question of whether, by funding and disseminating research that they know to be false, they’re guilty of a tort, and can be held liable for damages.

…while people and companies enjoy the First Amendment right to free speech, legal scholars have argued that right does not extend to influencing people under false pretenses. According to former tobacco industry lawyer Stephen Susman, when it comes to fossil fuel companies and supporters funding their own research on climate change, if “they knew the information they were spreading was false and being used to deliberately influence public opinion — that would override their First Amendment rights.”

This question may soon be playing out in the courts.

Comically Outlandish Videos from Perry, Rove

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Just to change the subject for a moment, here are a couple of videos that have been making the rounds, and struck me as worthy of consideration.

First up, Rick Perry’s Strong video:

Apparently it’s surpassed Rebecca Black’s “Friday” as the most disliked video on YouTube. But the part I hadn’t realized until it was pointed out to me was that Rick Perry really does appear to be wearing Heath Ledger’s jacket from Brokeback Mountain (see the previous link for images and decide for yourself). Was that just coincidence? Some weird subconscious choice by Perry’s image people (or Perry himself)? Or was it on purpose? And if it was on purpose, why would they do that?

The second fun video I’ve wondered about is this one: It’s an attack ad against Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren that has been put out by Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS super PAC:

The thing that’s interesting here is how over-the-top dishonest the ad is. Kevin Drum explains in Elizabeth Warren: Wall Street Shill:

Here on Earth Prime, of course, Warren is perhaps one of the financial industry’s most loathed figures. Saying she’s too close to Wall Street is sort of like saying Ralph Nader is too close to General Motors because, you know, he spent a whole year researching a book about the car industry.

Drum talks about this as representing possibly the most out-there attempt yet by Rove to neutralize a political opponent by using a head-on attack on his or her greatest perceived strength. That’s been Rove’s trademark over the years. Warren is a champion of the middle class who strikes terror into the hearts of bankers? Then run an ad that pushes the fear that actually no, she’s really in bed with those hated bankers.

I’d like very much to believe that low-information voters aren’t that stupid, that the attempt will fail, and fail badly, and that Warren will be elected. But I’d also like to believe that Exxon and BP will wake up tomorrow, realize the error of their ways, and instantaneously transform themselves into companies that use their expertise with drilling to launch a no-holds-barred effort to develop clean geothermal power sources to save civilization from the effects of profligate fossil fuel emissions over the last few centuries.

Clearly, my liking the idea of something doesn’t carry any particular weight with the universe. I’ll just have to wait and see.

Roberts on Anderson and Bows on Climate Change Mitigation

Friday, December 9th, 2011

David Roberts has been producing some of the best writing on climate change I’ve been reading lately. This piece in particular really impressed (and depressed) me: The brutal logic of climate change mitigation. In it, he talks about the implications of a recent paper by climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows (original: Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world).

The whole Roberts piece is very much worth reading, but here’s what he ends with:

This is the stark conclusion drawn by Anderson and Bows: “The logic of such studies suggests (extremely) dangerous climate change can only be avoided if economic growth is exchanged, at least temporarily, for a period of planned austerity within Annex 1 nations and a rapid transition away from fossil-fuelled development within non-Annex 1 nations.”

I know what you’re thinking. It’ll never happen. It’s political suicide to bring it up. Conservatives will use it against us. Very Serious People will take to fainting couches across the land. I’ll address those questions in my next post.

But for now, it’s enough to say: It is what it is. As Anderson says, we’re currently mitigating for 4 degrees C and planning for 2 degrees C. That is ass backwards. It is, almost clinically, insane. We need to be doing the opposite — mitigating for 2, planning for 4 — as soon as possible.

Like Copenhagen, the current Durban talks are challenging my sense of what’s possible, and this Roberts piece (and the paper it’s based on) really get to the heart of the matter. For people like shcb, climate change really is very nearly impossible to accept, no matter how much evidence exists for it, because if you accept that it’s real, and an existential threat to civilization, the only reasonable way to deal with it is through cooperative, collaborative global government action. Which is anathema to the current US conservative worldview. What is increasingly clear, also, is that it’s not enough to spur “green jobs” and “restore America’s place as the pre-eminent power in the 21st century”. We’re not going to be able to sustain economic growth along the same lines we’ve come to take for granted. We’ve binged our way through a huge fossil fuel energy expenditure, but we can’t continue, and the harder we squeeze our eyes and pretend we can, just a little longer, the worse a future we bequeath to our descendants.

It’s really quite spectacularly selfish. There’s a moral component to the crisis that really affects me on an emotional level. Climate change denialism isn’t just stupid. It’s evil. I’m not sure getting upset about that is conducive to true understanding or wise decision-making, but sometimes that happens.

Revkin and Klein on the Way Forward on Climate

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Andrew Revkin shares an email discussion he had with Naomi Klein (and bookends the discussion with his own additional observations) about the big picture on climate change: Naomi Klein’s Inconvenient Climate Conclusions. A short excerpt:

Q. Your examination of liberals’ views appropriately reveals the unwillingness – at least of “mainstream” liberals? – to acknowledge the full scope of what would need to happen on a world heading toward 9 billion people seeking decent lives. Certainly others — e.g., Growthbusters and the Post Carbon Institute — have not.

But you also seem to presume that the only strategy that can work is “radical government intervention,” when there are other approaches that have gained some traction — including no-brainers like strengthening standards and incentives for energy efficiency and conservation (which surveys show have very wide support, including among Republicans outside the obstructionist fringe, see p.5 here) while reviving long-eroded basic research and development in basic energy-related sciences. (Even George Will has warned the new Republican power brokers against neglecting science.)

A. I agree that some market incentives and R&D investments are part of the solution, and I say so in the piece. But do I think they can get us to 80 per cent emissions reduction by mid-century? No. Not everything is win-win, some very powerful players are going to have to lose if we ever decide to get serious about climate change, which is why the denial movement is so well funded.

It’s interesting to me (and kind of refreshing, if also depressing) to listen to some smart non-denialists arguing over what needs to happen. They’re describing an elephant based on divergent notions of the trunk’s importance versus the tail’s, which leads me to think they’re both right (and both wrong). But at least they’re not wrong in the same sense that the denialists are wrong. Yes, it’s an elephant, not a trunk or a tail. But it’s more a trunk or tail than it is a tortilla.

Moran on the Stages of Climate Change Denialism

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Daniel Keys Moran (heh) on the stages of climate change denialism.

I enjoyed the comment thread, too. +1 your favorites!

The GOP’s Uncomfortable Position on Climate-Change Science

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Here’s a nice article by Coral Davenport from the National Journal: Heads in the Sand.

Two days later, the reporter tried again. Approached in the Capitol, Barrasso smiled and appeared poised to answer questions, inviting the reporter into an elevator with him. As the door slid shut, the reporter asked, “Do you believe that climate change is causing the Earth to warm?” A long silence ensued. The senator eventually let out a slow laugh and said, “This isn’t the time to have that conversation.” As soon as the elevator opened, he clapped his phone to his ear and walked briskly toward the Capitol subway.

I realize our election cycles are all about the next year or two. But on the timescale of decades, the Republican Party’s current approach to climate change is a loser. This is going to cut across all demographics, all socio-economic categories. Race, taxation, civil rights; it doesn’t matter. Whatever your hot button issues are, they are predictably going to be trumped by climate change. The Republican Party is placing a red bet on a roulette wheel that only has black slots.

It will be interesting (painful, but interesting) to see how that works out for them.

Why I’ll Be Among the First to Buy an AbigailAndI Album

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

I’ve got a thing for plaintive, breathy female vocals. Deb Talan’s voice is a big part of what I love about The Weepies, and Nataly Dawn’s voice does the same thing for me with Pomplamoose. So I’m not very objective about this. I just know what I like, and would like more of.

I would like more of Abbey Snarski singing stuff like this:

And this:

And this:

As it stands, I’ll take what I can get, recorded cheaply with bad acoustics in laundry rooms and stairwells. But in a perfect world, there will eventually be an AbigailAndI album that I can buy and download, at which point that is exactly what I will do.

You have been warned!

Capt. Matthew Phelps on the End of Not Asking, Not Telling

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Sometimes I feel compelled to post because I’ve noticed a particular lie being told, and it bugs the crap out of me until I’ve shared it with the half-dozen of you who read this. But this item isn’t about a lie that’s being told. It’s about a lie that has stopped being told.

Matthew Phelps is a logistics captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. Until September 20, 2011, he was also (of necessity) a closeted gay man. His account of what it was like to live that lie, and how DADT’s repeal has changed that, made me teary-eyed: On Marines, equality, and my date to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball.

Congratulations, Capt. Phelps!