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[links] Link salad didn’t know you were looking for more than it could ever be

“Hemingway” on Hemingway — Who the hell would use an app to evaluate their writing quality?

1966 Batman Valentines — Hahaha.

Compulsory Coupling: Fit In By Finding Someone — Yeah, this.

Snow Bird: 1922 — Some photographs defy explanation.

Austin’s Moon Towers, Beyond ‘Dazed and Confused’ — I lived in Austin 18 years, almost all of them in the old part of town where these towers still stand.

Frozen Venice – in pictures — (Via Lisa Costello.)

Bobsleds in ManhattanWhy NYC Should Host The Winter Olympics. Hahahah.
Global Geologic Map of Ganymede — In case you need one.

A little ass music: Hieronymus Bosch’s 500-year-old butt song from hell — This is so weird. (Via Lisa Costello.)

248-Million-Year-Old Fossil Shows Oldest Reptile Live Birth, Chaohusaurus Was Born ‘Head First’

The Rise of the Crazy Ants — Fire ants were bad enough. Now this? (Via David Goldman.)

The French way of cancer treatment[T]he French system is basically like an expanded Medicaid. Pretty much everyone has insurance, it explained, and the French get better primary care and more choice of doctors than we do. It also turns out, as has been much commented on, that despite all this great treatment, the French spend far less on healthcare than Americans. But Socialism is evil! No matter that people live longer, with better quality of life, for less cost. (Snurched from Alexander Unwyn Cherry.)

Cartoon: The truth about numbers: Bible Math! — Snerk. The dangers of literalism.

Kansas’ Anti-Gay Segregation Bill Is an Abomination — Wow. It’s very, very hard for me to read about something like this and not reach some very harsh negative conclusions about the intelligence, morality and basic human decency of American conservatives. (Via John Sapienza.)

Herpin: ‘A good thing’ that James Holmes had 100-round magazineRepublican state Sen. Bernie Herpin raised the ire of an Aurora theater shooting victim’s father when he claimed that it might have been “a good thing” that gunman James Holmes had a 100-round magazine when he opened fire and, ultimately, killed 12 people. I cannot even bring myself to snark about this.

Schofield man who advocated for open carry jailed, accused of making gun threats — Because guns make us all safer, and every American who carries deadly force can absolutely be relied upon to use that threat of deadly force wisely under all circumstances.

Doctors: Abortion laws carry riskEven those who oppose abortion say that before giving their best medical advice, they may need to call a lawyer. All in accordance with that bedrock conservative principle of not letting the government come between you and your doctor.

[Conservative activist] Brent Bozell urges liberal media to ‘tell the truth,’ while he fibs about writing a column — “Forced ghostwriting”?

Sen. Bob Corker can’t stand the United Auto Workers: An annotated interview — I wish more journalists would do this when interviewing politicians: annotate the lies and misrepresentations. (Snurched from John Sapienza.)

[New York Republican state legislator] Thomas Barraga: No one ‘should ever ride a bicycle’ in Suffolk County — Because freedom, I guess.

?otD: Do you have to stay?


2/14/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 9.5 hours (mostly solid)
Body movement: 20 minutes stationary bike (resuming exercise post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block who aren’t descended from monkeys: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[politics] The absolute privileging of ideological conviction

My online friend [info]chris_gerrib was riffing on irrational thinking, drawing an analogy between SFWA’s current issues, and the very consistent rural conservative misperception of tax burdens and budget allocations. I made this comment:

It’s a common trope among rural and exurban conservatives that the big cities are bleeding them dry with taxes. That’s flatly counterfactual, and evidence to the contrary is widely available, but the entire conservative project of the post-Nixon era can be summed up as an effort to absolutely privilege ideological conviction at the expense of evidence-based reality. Hence everything from evolution denial to birtherism. Why should awareness of the tax structure be exempt from carefully fostered wholesale willful ignorance?

This is precisely why I argue so hard and bitterly against evolution denial as a conservative social trope. To my view of recent political history, Republicans fostered that issue among southern religious conservatives to split the old Democratic coalition. One of several culture wars and race/class issues that were deliberate inflamed for reasons of GOP electoral gains as an extension of Nixon’s Southern Strategy. But in privileging evolution denial as a legitimate viewpoint subject to legal and regulatory support, conservatives opened (or more accurately, re-opened) the door to an entire culture of proudly anti-intellectual denialism.

This explicit endorsement that an individual’s beliefs, ideological conviction and personal judgment were more valuable, more truthful, more American than any objective proof to the contrary is one of the deep and abiding poisons afflicting our current society. (See, for example, the 2012 Texas Republican Party platform plank against the teaching of critical thinking in schools, because such intellectual skills can result in “challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority”.) It insulates the believer from any responsibility for trying to understand changing conditions or correct simple misapprehensions of fact. Such as, in the case under discussion on [info]chris_gerrib’s LiveJournal, tax policy in states with a deep urban/rural divide. But also everything from gay marriage to supply side economics to foreign policy.

Likewise, that explicit endorsement of ideology over objective reality insulates the believer from even having to account for contrary evidence. That’s the whole point of FOX News, which conceptually originated as a political tactic in the Nixon White House. (This has has been well documented.) Dismissing insufficiently conservative information sources as biased or distorted means never having to pay attention to the information they provide. Hence the also well-documented phenomenon of conservative epistemic closure.

As a result, we don’t have political and cultural debates on mutually understood terms about issues where progressive and conservatives rightly have different views. Things like tax policy, defense, unemployment, healthcare, where our political philosophies ought to compete on the merits of their position and the value of their goals in terms of the republic as a whole. Instead we have a progressive and centrist view that tries to articulate from an evidence-based position and seek middle ground, and we have a conservative view that demonstrably has been increasingly dominated by radical denialism and ideological insularity. So we get conservative voters who honestly believe that the duly elected president of the United States is a radical socialist working to undermine this country, and Republican congressmen who do things such as engage politely over the suggestion that the president should be executed as an enemy combatant.

This is not a basis of reasonable political disagreement. This is open lunacy. Knowingly enabled and fostered in order to keep conservative voters coming to the polls.

That politics of resentment, that divide-and-conquer strategy, has bought the GOP a lot of votes over the past decades. It stands at the core of the Republican party’s self-articulated “generate more angry white guys” strategy. But it does the country no good, and ultimately does the conservative movement no good either. We’ve allowed one political party to act upon an overt goal of making half our country ill-informed and angry in order to troll for votes.

That is uncivil in the most literal sense of the term, not to mention profoundly destructive to our national fabric and unpatriotic as hell.

[links] Link salad has got bananas, watermelons and peaches by the pound

Photographer Gets A-List Celebrities To Reenact Stunning Scenes From Disney Movies — Annie Leibovitz with some amazing stuff. (Via Lisa Costello.)

An open letter from a Death Star architect — Hahaha. (Via Lisa Costello.)

Agloe, the Paper Town Stronger than Fiction — An odd twist on a well-known story, for you map geeks.

Researchers Watch As Our Brains Turn Sounds Into Words — Ok. This is cool.

Seattle construction workers unearth mammoth tusk

Good luck trying to escape a hungry crocodile by climbing a treeResearchers discovered that four crocodile species climbed trees.

The Archaeology of the Stars — More on hunting for very ancient stars. (Thanks to Dad.)

4 Crazy Gay Marriage Predictions That Never Came TrueIt’s time to take a look at some of predictions and see if any have come to fruition. Guess what?

Nevada Officials Won’t Defend Gay Marriage Ban“After thoughtful review and analysis, the state has determined that its arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable.“ Another bigotry domino falls in the face of personal freedom and American values.

Now They’re Making the Homeless Freeze to Death in PensascolaPensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward has reversed positions on a city ordinance that makes it a crime for the homeless to sleep on public property with a blanket. I’m pretty sure the Bible has something to say about this in Matthew 25:36. I realize Jesus wasn’t up on current American conservative thinking when he talked about clothing the naked, but the principle seems clear. (Via David Goldman.)

GOP Report Acknowledges That The U.S. Military Couldn’t Have Changed Benghazi Outcome — Republicans formally acknowledging in writing that neither Hillary nor Obama did anything wrong in the Benghazi matter? Yeah, that will be all over Your Liberal Media.

?otD: More better than in town?


2/12/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 9.0 hours (multiply interrupted)
Body movement: 15 minutes stationary bike (resuming exercise post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block who aren’t descended from monkeys: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[cancer|culture] Employment and me and the American obsession with work

Interesting article here about American’s relationship to work, specifically in light of some of the recent Republican bitching about Obamacare and jobs. As if introducing broader economic choices and more personal freedom by eliminating healthcare-driven job lock and marriage lock were somehow a bad thing.

The article says:

You heard echoes of America’s Puritan roots in Republicans’ latest argument against Obamacare: Work is a irreducible part of who we are and anything that shifts incentives away from work is a step toward indolence and sloth. We might be a more secular nation in the 21st century, but we still generally establish our self-identity through our occupation, experts say. The Protestant work ethic prevails.

Speaking as someone who is no longer working, but living off SSDI and private disability insurance, um, yeah. This issue bothers me a lot. My basic cultural wiring is just as embedded in the poisonous cesspool of Calvinism as the rest of America. I was raised with a Southern-tinged Protestant tilt. I know in my bones that worldly success means God’s favor, that illness and poverty mean that one has failed morally. This is how our culture behaves, to our everlasting shame.

So now, being on disability as I am, I’m no longer working in the usual sense of the term. Being a cancer patient is certainly a full time job, but it doesn’t embrace what conservatives call “the dignity of work”. (Which, by the way, is something I think they do get right — there is a dignity in purposeful work. Where I diverge from my conservative friends is in the definitions and implications inherent in that phrase. The core idea I don’t have a problem with.) I can’t work, even if I wanted to. Yesterday’s lunchtime trip into DC underscored how shallow my physical and mental reserves really are. That’s why I’m on disability.

We as a society harshly judge people who don’t work (excepting of course the idle rich). Who are perceived to lack ambition or ability. Where does that leave me? I worked hard all my life, did pretty well financially and professionally, and now drowning in the seas of cancer at the twilight of my days, am sidelined.

Sometimes that bothers me intensely. I miss both the job I had — I enjoyed my profession and my workplace and my coworkers — and I miss being that kind of busy. I miss writing for part of my living. I miss being focused and economically productive. I am not poor, even now, but I am certainly ill. About as ill as one can be without actually being dead.

It’s not a sense of failure. More like something at the intersection of shame, regret and frustration. I wish I could retool my mental landscape and see this time of being on disability benefits as my version of honorable retirement, or as my compensation for the job of being a cancer patient and standing witness to the disease for myself and others. Maybe I’ll succeed in that yet. But so far there’s too much of that American Calvinism in me to just let go.

[links] Link salad is a Melkotian object

Green, Book Review — Not so much with the liking of my novel.

It’s happening again! — My dear friend [info]garyomaha talks about the costs of segmentation in media and society.

Red Hong Yi renders Chinese scenes from makeup — Impressive. (Via Lisa Costello.)

Lego Hell — Oh, wow. Hahaha. (Via Slacktivist Fred Clark.)

Chandre Oraon, Man With Tail, Worshipped As God (But Not By His Wife)

33 Powerful And Creative Print Ads That’ll Make You Look Twice — Some of these are amazing. Some are questionable. They’re all worth looking at. (Via [info]willyumtx.)

Wildly detailed drawings that combine math and butterflies — Amazing stuff.

Photos by Mohammad Reza Domiri Ganji in Iran of mosque art — (Via Lisa Costello.)

Genome Surgery — Here comes the future.

NASA Mars Orbiters spots clues to possible water flows

Star Wars planets migrate into position around stellar pairsTatooine orbited two stars; now researchers believe planets like this actually exist.

Australian researchers say they have found the oldest star in the known universe, 6000 light years from Earth

Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex? — Wow are there a lot of unexamined cultural assumptions embedded in this article, especially around the supposed natural inviolability of monogamy.

NRA Board Member: Bullied Children Commit Suicide Because Young Boys Have Been “Neutered” — Ah, the magical sense of social responsibility that comes with gun ownership.

My Baby and AOL’s Bottom LineThat “distressed baby” who Tim Armstrong blamed for benefit cuts? She’s my daughter.

Greenland glacier sets glacial speed recordWater pressure greases the skids for Jakobshavn, clocked at 2 meters per hour.

Business as usual + sea level rise = losses of up to 9% of global GDPBut losses should be less if we’re not dumb enough to keep building on coasts.

Sowing Seeds: An Ex-Christian’s Thoughts on the Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debateee, there’s this stereotype in Christian culture (and elsewhere) that atheists are joyless, unhappy God-haters with hearts full of anger and lives devoid of purpose. That makes loss of faith a scary prospect, because who wants a life like that? Just by being himself, letting his love of science shine through, Nye demonstrated how joy, wonder, excitement, passion, and purpose — all things religious people tend to associate with service to God — can be a part of an atheist’s life. (To be fair, I don’t know for sure what Nye’s beliefs are, but Creationist fundamentalism does rather tend to lump together evolution belief and atheism, along with homosexuality, Communism, and baby-eating.) Yes, this. Atheists can be and often are moral, ethical, joyful people. Just as with any group of human beings. (Via Slacktivist Fred Clark.)

I’m a Member of the American ‘Used-to-Haves’Watching John Boehner and the Republican Congress during the past few years has been a stunning confirmation of their seeming disregard for the “Used-to-Haves.” As they pull down salaries of $174,000 a year, unparalleled benefits and the option of voting themselves a raise, their selfishness is unrivaled as they barricade health care reform, knowingly shut down the government, cut SNAP benefits and eliminate extended unemployment payments.

A commentor responds to my post on the 1% and hard work — Worth the read, as he has personal experience at multiple levels of the economy, unlike myself. I’ve never held those hard, low-end jobs, not even in my student job days. My first paid jobs were as a government clerk, then as a bank courier.

Tree Lobsters on economic inequality — Be sure to read the mouseover text.

Chastened G.O.P. Tries to Foil Insurgents at Primary LevelOne of the biggest challenges for Republican leaders in the 2014 midterm elections will be how to hang on to the Tea Party support that has been so instrumental to the party’s growth, while winning back voters alienated by hard-right candidates. I dunno. Maybe by not taking hard-right positions? Confidential to GOP in America: Try the evidence-based worldview for a change. You’d be amazed how differently things look when you factor in facts, data and actual history instead of an “unskewed” ideological narrative.

Tea Party Ain’t Over Yet: How Conservatives Still Control Congress — It seems like not so long ago that people in my end of the blogosphere were angrily defending the Tea Party as an independent, non-partisan grass roots movement. How’d that work out?

Leave The Poets AloneTrey Gowdy is a member of the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives. As such, Trey Gowdy is dedicated to working the job of governing the country as little as possible. When you elect people who think government is a failure, is it any surprise when they work for the failure of government? That such nonsensical thinking has achieved such political prominence in America is one of the great shames of our time.

Welfare StateWashington’s Republican counties depend on Western Washington’s money. How can they survive the state budget cuts they demand? Welcome to conservative America, where evidence-based thinking is proudly rejected. And yes, this phenomenon of rural conservatives opposing the very tax structure that benefits them most based on counterfactual ideological beliefs about the direction in which the money flows repeats within many states across the US, as well as at the state/Federal level. As the article comments, The irony here is not that those who benefit most from state spending are paying the least; that’s kinda the way these things are supposed to work. No, the irony is that those rural communities that are most dependent on the state—whose roads and schools and other essential public services couldn’t possibly be maintained without generous state subsidies—are also those least likely to vote for the tax dollars necessary to sustain these services. (Via David Goldman.)

CBO: Guys, We Didn’t Say Obamacare Would Cost 2.5 Million Jobs — Hmm. Unthinkable that the GOP should substantially misrepresent an important ACA point in a way that casts an unfavorable light on the president. Conservative intellectual honesty and moral probity would never permit such a thing.

?otD: How many to beam up?


2/11/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 7.5 hours (solid)
Body movement: 15 minutes stationary bike (resuming exercise post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block who aren’t descended from monkeys: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[culture] Pointing back to my 1% post

I don’t normally signal boost myself, except for occasional event promotion, but I made a post on Saturday that my larger weekday audience might have missed, and I think it’s important.

In a post entitled [culture] The 1% and hard work I talked about the basis on which people are compensated in American economy and society. I’m neither attacking nor defending the current system, just pointing out that to an important degree, I believe we’re having this discussion on the wrong foundational terms.

As it happens, even though I am quite privileged in the social justice sense of that term, my sympathies lie strongly with the 99%, the 47%, and the people who work harder than ever to make ends meet. But wherever one’s sympathies lie, however one views the “makers and takers” dialectic and all the analogous debates, I think it’s import to be talking about the right things.

So if you didn’t see it over the weekend, take a couple of minutes and go read. I’ll be interested in what you think.

P.S: If you have a comment, best to comment there to keep the thread going. I’m taking the very unusual-for-me step of closing comments here in order to encourage that.

[culture] The 1% and hard work

Last night on social media, I made this observation:

Someone who believes the 1% are wealthier because they work harder has never met a migrant farm worker, a janitor or a single mother.

That provoked quite a bit of commentary, sharing and reposting on both Twitter and Facebook.

I wanted to expand on that a little bit this morning. If you’re not sure what I’m referring to in the first place, see the recent discussions in the online and print media world about the public defensiveness of the 1%. This piece from Talking Points Memo is a good place to start, as it links to a number of other pieces.

Basically, there’s a self-valorizing myth among the wealthy in America that they got to their current situation due to their exceptional hard work. (I’m ignoring inherited wealth for the purposes of this discussion.) That same argument is used to justify high salaries in the legal profession and elsewhere. I am not saying that the wealthy don’t work hard, but it’s a ridiculous claim that hard work is the causal difference between wealth and lack of wealth.

That was my basic point. Poor people in general work much, much harder than rich people, for far less reward. It’s something many people of wealth are either unaware of or have long since forgotten.

I’m not throwing stones at the Bastille here. Prior to my own going on disability, my annual income put me in the top quartile of American wage earners. A proud member of the 25%, I suppose. I have absolutely benefited from the privileges of my birth and social class, and from being a white collar knowledge worker. And I have worked pretty damned hard over the years.

But I’ve never, ever had a job where I worked as hard as the custodial staff who cleaned the buildings I worked in at night. Or where I worked as hard as the people who picked the tomatoes that I could find in my salad at lunch every day.

Though I have been an exceptionally hard worker, I never confused my economic success with exceptionally hard work.

It’s not about working smarter, either, which is one of the fallback positions in this argument. Yes, knowledge workers can be highly paid. Ask any successful attorney or senior IT person. But teachers work smart every day, and so do emergency responders, while neither of those professions is highly paid. Likewise anybody in the lower end of the advertising world. And those are just lines of work that leap to mind in the first moment’s reflection.

Though I have been an exceptionally smart worker, I never confused my economic success with exceptionally smart work.

As my mother, a/k/a [info]tillyjane, explained to me once when I was a young man, in our society we don’t pay people according to how hard they work, or how important their jobs are. If we did, teachers would be at the top of the pay scale. In our society, we pay people according to how well they can make the money move.

The examples easiest to perceive are top-tier athletes and actors. Because a big name star can increase the take at the gate or the box office, they’re paid more. Essentially, it’s a form of commission. Likewise people who work in high end sales, or Wall Street level finance. They’re commissioned, either directly or indirectly, because of the financial transaction volume they generate. Likewise C-level officers of major corporations, who are compensated as highly as they are because they are supposed to be able to influence corporate revenue.

The 1% are where they are not because they work harder, or because they work smarter, but because they are able to influence the flow of money.

Note that I am neither defending nor attacking the system. I’m merely pointing out that the current argument being advanced by some among the 1% is specious and self-serving, designed to appeal to the American archetype of the self-made success and the idea of class mobility.

The reality is much, much tougher. Me, I’ve never been poor. Sure, I’ve been student-poor. I’ve been lower middle class-poor. I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck. I’ve been financially distressed by a real estate bankruptcy (in the 1990s) and by extraordinary medical expenses (these past six years). But I’ve never in my life had to choose between feeding my kids and paying the heating bill. I’ve never broken my back working two and three jobs while trying to figure out how to pay $1,000 worth of bills with $600 worth of income, and no way out.

Those people, who are millions of Americans, work much, much harder than Sam Zell or Tom Perkins can ever imagine. Those people, whose lifetime earnings will be less that the monthly cash flow of the household of someone in the 1%, work much, much harder than almost any of us who are not also that poor can admit to.

Because there is your injustice. Not the paranoia of the extremely wealthy who realize they are at the top of a dangerously unbalanced pyramid. But the work of millions that keep all our floors clean and all our salad plates stocked.

Me, I’m close enough to being one of those wealthy that I’m probably standing on the ethically challenged side of this divide. But even I can see the strains in the system.

Should it be this way? I’m honestly not sure. That’s the way our system works. Rightly or wrongly, that’s the way our system is designed to work. I’m not advocating revolution here. But I am advocating honesty, rather than self-valorizing paranoia and class-based whining about the class-based oppression allegedly suffered by the privileged.

Because in honesty, we can define our problems. And in defining our problems, we can solve them. And frankly, Perkins and Zell et alia are right about one thing. Hard work should be rewarded. So let’s recognize who works hardest in our society, and let’s have an honest discussion about how to reward them.

[links] Link salad can’t sell you what you need

TOC: The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures — In which I have a reprint novelette, “Benedice Te”.

Worst Day of the Year Ride Canceled Because of Bad Weather — Ah, Portland. (Via my sister.)

Put a monocle on anything and it looks classy — Mr. Peanut, is that you?

That’s “Heavy”: The Mind-Body-Metaphor Connection — This is fascinating. In English, and several other languages as well, weight is used as metaphor to signify importance. The authors hypothesized that this abstraction can be triggered by concrete experiences of weight, like holding something heavy. They call this “embodied cognition.”

Can tumors be transplanted? — Uh…

Why do Americans spend so much on pharmaceuticals?

The Evidence Piles Up: Antioxidant Supplements Are Bad For You — Ooops. (Via David Goldman.)

Crowdfunding’s Effect on Venerable Nonprofits Raises ConcernWebsites now let people ask for charitable support for their own causes, but some fear that such sites will drain donations from established nonprofits. (Via Dad.)

Plate tectonics set the thermostat for early animal lifeSwitch from snowball to hothouse conditions driven by continental collisions.

Mechanism Important for Photosynthesis was Present in Ancient Microbes 2.5 Billion Years Ago

Earth’s Oldest Land Predators Had ‘Steak Knife’ Teeth

Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies

What Noise Does the Electric Car Make? — I was nearly struck by an electric scooter in China, the rider moving fast at night with his headlight off, presumably to conserve battery. Fast and all but noiseless.

Hamline professor’s post on student loan debt goes viral — When I started at the University of Texas at Austin in 1982, tuition and fees for a full 18 semester hour load were about $360. When I graduated in 1986, thanks to conservative-driven cuts in subsidies for higher education, it was well over $2,000 per semester. Costs have soared many times over since then, because we as a society have explicitly chosen to make higher education less and less accessible to each succeeding cohort of youth.

(GOP) Rep. Has Cordial Chat About Whether Obama ‘Should Be Executed’ — This piece is just creepy. Now try imagining the firestorm in Your Liberal Media if a Democratic congressman had had this conversation about Bush or Reagan.

?otD: Did buy it off the shelf? Did you grow it from the seed?


2/8/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 7.5 hours (fitful)
Body movement: n/a (post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block who aren’t descended from monkeys: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[links] Link salad for an achey Wednesday

What grocery stores can teach us about linguistics — Mmm, taxonomy and language.

The Best Response to Grammar Nazis, EverStephen Fry nails it. (Via [info]danjite.)

Lego Goes to Hollywood

Citizens seek cancer cure with “Genes in Space” smartphone game — (Via Dad.)

Most cancers in our world pandemic are preventable — here’s how

Remembrance or revision? Brain study shows memory misleads

Ethics Questions Arise as Genetic Testing of Embryos Increases

Habitability Around Ancient Stars

Cryptography Breakthrough Could Make Software Unhackable — I’m not sure I believe in “unhackable” as a concept, but this is interesting. (Via David Goldman.)

The Female Orgasm—Illustrated — Hahahah. Also: NSFW, in case that wasn’t obvious already.

Courtesy Stigma and the Consequences of Deviance — This is fascinating, and something with which I am familiar in real life.

Talking past each other: Bill Nye vs. creationist Ken Ham on evolutionArs reports on the debate over whether creation is viable as science. I really, really hate the fact that this Creationist tripe is even dignified with a debate, instead of laughed off the stage as it should be. You can believe anything you want about God and the universe, but to mistake your private faith for empirical truth is a grave intellectual and spiritual error.

U.N. Panel Assails Vatican Over Sex Abuse by PriestsA United Nations panel sharply criticized the Vatican on Wednesday for putting the reputation and interests of the Holy See above the interests of children who had been sexually abused by priests, effectively allowing priests to continue abuse and escape prosecution. In a series of hard-hitting observations, the Committee on the Rights of the Child said that “the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.” Yeah, I can feel that moral authority from all the way over here.

California man points gun at Girl Scout at his door to sell cookies — Under the Stand Your Ground laws so beloved of conservatives, there is no test of reasonableness. Only the shooter’s own word that they felt threatened. If the victim is dead, that’s it. Who’s to say otherwise? This means that any person with a firearm in a “Stand Your Ground” state has the legal power of summary execution over any human being they encounter. Yup. Guns definitely make us all safer.

O’Reilly Tells Obama He Didn’t Need Student Loans: ‘That’s Who I Am’ — This is a common conservative meme. But when O’Reilly was young, college was much cheaper in both absolute and relative terms. Four decades of very deliberate conservative chipping away at higher education funding has made it impossible to work your way through college painting houses.

Broken Democracy: Republicans poised to take Senate, Americans Reject their PlatformThe Republican majority in the House of Representatives can already block most legislation, and in 2013 it dedicated itself the the proposition that the country must be punished for re-electing Barack Obama, by being denied virtually any new needed legislation at all.

Delusions of FailureThe truth is that the campaign against Obamacare relies on misleading stories at best, and often on outright deceit. Who pays the price for this deceit? In many cases, American families.

Arksansas Republicans hope to dump 85,000 out of Medicaid They’ll cut 85,000 people out of health care to spite President Obama.

?otD: Relax. I’ll need some information first. Just the basic facts. Can you show me where it hurts?


2/5/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 8.5 hours (solid)
Body movement: n/a (post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block inventing polar vortices: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[cancer|culture] The hour and manner of one’s passing

I don’t have a lot to add to what’s already being said about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was a successful actor and director who was still underrated, in my uninformed understanding of Hollywood and Broadway. He took brave and frightening and silly roles, sometimes all at once, and inhabited the screen with a certain everyman awkwardness that was both endearing and familiar.

But death, now death has become a close friend to me this last year. Riding on my shoulder, always at my side, hearing with my ears, speaking with my tongue, thinking with my thoughts. Even as I write this I am lying in a hotel room bed on a heated mattress pad with my right side wrapped in a heating pad, every breath a pain, every movement an ache, each of those tiny, sharp, endless crystal moments a reminder that barring a medical breakthrough of almost literally miraculous proportions, I will be gone in a matter of months and weeks.

As it happens of course, we’re working on that medical breakthrough. That’s why the bed I am lying in happens to be in Ocean City, Maryland, 2,950 miles from my home in Portland, OR. My crowd-funded Whole Genome Sequencing drives a realtime experiment in mutation-based selection of TIL cells happening on a lab bench not far west of here at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. I am choosing to live, in pain both physical and psychic, for so long as I can. I am perhaps too stupid and stubborn to die any sooner than I might.

Yet, I say this as if I have any direct control over the ways and means of my cancer.

As a matter of philosophy, I don’t oppose what we somewhat ironically call “recreational drug use”. As a matter of philosophy, I support a right to die for those who feel the need to do so. That would almost make me a Libertarian, at least back in the days before that group became Tea Party lunatics and lost all moral and intellectual credibility.

But I strongly oppose harm to others. In any form. Medicating yourself to death, as Hoffman appears to have done (whether accidentally or with a purpose) slays a portion of the hearts of everyone who loves you.

I know this, as I know that my own increasingly overwhelming mortality slays a portion of the hearts of those who love me.

As I’ve said in several other contexts recently, when death is being forced upon you, as it is with me, then life becomes all the more precious. There’s always a tomorrow, no matter how bad today looks.

That’s not me speaking in cliche. That’s me speaking as someone who spent my teens and twenties so gripped in chronic clinical depression that I found it necessary to try to take my own life, and wound up in considerable treatment because of that. I was lucky enough to have a chance to walk it back, and go on to have a life and loves and a child and writing career.

My chances to walk it back are almost gone beyond recall. The hour and manner of my passing is being dictated by genetic inevitability and the toxic tumor-children of my body.

Philip Seymour Hoffman will never have a chance to walk it back now. The hour and manner of his passing has been set and sealed, seemingly by his own hand.

And that makes me sad. For him. For those who loved him in his everyday life. For those among us who admired him from a distance.

Because one of the things that makes me saddest for myself is that there’s always a tomorrow, but soon enough I will never again see the sun rise. Neither will Mr. Hoffman.

The hour and manner of one’s passing is always the last today.

[links] Link salad misses Philip Seymour Hoffman already

His Friends Know Him as Petroswickonicovick — On names and naming traditions in Brazil. (Via Dad.)

Ashes to Ashes, but First a Nice Pine Box — On building your own coffin. (Via Reynardo.)

Nine Treasures — Mongolian folk metal. Yo. (Thanks, I think, to [info]danjite.)

In China, ‘Once the Villages Are Gone, the Culture Is Gone’ — Changes in culture. (Via Dad.)

Lunar Time Lapse Panorama including Yutu Rover

How the Media Missed the Story of the Millennium: One Climate Blockbuster after AnotherThe fact that 97% of scientists who have weighed in on the issue believe that climate change is a human-caused phenomenon is not a story. That only one of 9,137 peer-reviewed papers on climate change published between November 2012 and December 2013 rejected human causation is not a story either, nor is the fact that only 24 out of 13,950 such articles did so over 21 years.

Hillary Clinton: ‘fun to watch FOX when it’s someone else being blitzed’

The Cheapening of American Politics: Why did Obama reward O’Reilly with an Interview?Fox cheapens our lives by reducing respect for human rights. It pushes homophobia, the restriction of women’s choice, Islamophobia, xenophobia (irrational fear of “foreigners”) and white and Christian triumphalism. It is hypocritical, in that it slams Muslims and Arabs while being 6% owned by Saudi billionaire al-Walid Bin Talal.

4 Ways Tunisia Is Now More Progressive Than The United States — (Via [info]danjite.)

Go Ahead, Try it That Way”We’re in this mess for a reason, and it’s because GOP leaders either doesn’t understand the conservative ideal (which is why they can’t articulate it), or they do understand it and simply don’t like it.” If that’s true, it’s probably the only thing “GOP leaders” and the American people have in common.

?otD: Life is precious and short enough already. Why go too soon?


2/3/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 8.5 hours (solid)
Body movement: n/a (post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block inventing polar vortices: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[links] Link salad’s daddy had a car it loved to drive

A review of my short story, “King of the Kingless” — By my friend [info]talekyn.

Get Fuzzy on dialog in fiction

Pope Francis Continues Outreach, Blesses Male Stripper’s Parrot — This story was a headline writer’s dream.

Woman Gives Birth to Children, Discovers Her Twin is Actually the Biological Mother, But She is Technically Her Own Twin — Another headline writer’s dream.

How Londoners Died in One Plague-Ridden Week in 1665 — Apparently, you could die of “teeth”. Actually, that’s explained in the article, but it’s still weird. (Via AH.)

First Porsche Was An Electric Car

Jade Rabbit Says ‘Goodnight’ Before 14-Day Shutdown; Its Status Uncertain

The Biggest Stereotype Of Every State In America In One Map — I like Oregon’s label.

The Day We Lost AtlantaHow 2 lousy inches of snow paralyzed a metro area of 6 million.

Study: Many will die if Medicaid is not expandedNew report says thousands of uninsured will go without medical tests and treatments.

South Dakota bill would protect teachers who promote intelligent design — Seriously, people, this is an argument too stupid for a modern society to even be having. Not to mention, First Amendment.

Montana GOP Candidate Calls Hillary Clinton The ‘Anti-Christ’ — Wait, I thought Obama was the Anti-Christ? Seems like just a day or two ago that the Wall Street Journal was smugly talking about the liberal politics of vilification. This must be what they meant.

Even Republicans Now View The Iraq War As A Failure — Confidential to conservative America: Welcome to the reality-based community.

The House GOP’s incredible, amazing discovery: Most Americans aren’t entrepreneurs

Koch-Tied Groups Funded GOP Effort to Mess With Electoral College Rules

The Champion Barack ObamaHow Black America talks to the White House. Ta-Nehisi Coates is moving.

?otD: Were you shaking? Snapping your fingers?


2/1/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 8.5 hours (fitful)
Body movement: n/a (post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block inventing polar vortices: 0
Currently reading: n/a