when the status quo frustrates.


Friday, July 30th, 2010

Please be aware that children conceived during the show or within 48 hours thereafter may be born with wings. The Wondaland Arts Society will not be held liable for this phenomenon or be held responsible for parenting or providing for your flying children.

Bullshit of the Highest Magnitude

Friday, July 30th, 2010

I generally avoid “Psychology Today”. The magazine believes in just-so, evo psych nonsense, it has tons of advertisements for SSR inhibitors (I’m against medical ads in the first place), and it’s just generally a tacky magazine. Scienceblogs has better biology, Scientific Mind America is better when it comes to psychology. But, Shakesville linked me to this article, and I just had to say something.

We say we want someone who surprises us with daisies just because it’s Tuesday, serenades us with his acoustic guitar, and bakes us brownies when we desperately need a chocolate fix. However, when brought face to face with a man who is truly devoted to romanticism, we quickly dismiss him. No longer considered swoon-worthy, his antics evoke discomfort and sheer terror in the hearts of women everywhere….

If Monday’s episode of “The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All” has taught me anything, it is that taking on the persona of the “sensitive male” is the quickest way to get sent home sans rose, not to mention become the butt of countless jokes among your fellow dumpees. For those who have been keeping up with the latest Bachelorette (i.e. those of you who lack any semblance of a social life) know that Kasey will forever be branded as the creepiest contestant the show has ever seen. During his time on the show, he spewed cheesy lines like, “You look imaginary,” performed an impromptu (off-key) serenade after a helicopter ride, and even got a tattoo to prove his dedication to and his vow to “guard and protect (bachelorette, Ali’s) heart.” He has every characteristic we say we look for in a man, yet we cannot help but cringe with pity and embarrassment as we watch poor Kasey pour his heart out to the frightened Ali…..

A husband knows that when his wife cries, he should comfort her by putting his arm around her, rub her back, and tell her everything will be okay. A wife is less sure of what to do when her husband cries. Instead of a complete role reversal, women tend to feel awkward watching their husbands or boyfriends in such a vulnerable state, and men tend to withdraw and feel emasculated when their significant others pat their heads and say, “Poor baby.” Although the idea of a man in touch with his feminine side seems perfect, the reality is too new for most women to fully accept….

Perhaps the answer to this puzzling phenomenon is nothing more than a simple case of “grass-is-greener” syndrome. I could spend all day looking forward to a relaxing evening on the couch catching up on my reading, but as soon as I see my roommate ready to go out, my book which was once enthralling becomes tedious and all I can think about now is how much I’d rather be going out than stuck at home. If you have straight hair, you want curly hair. If you’re tall, you want to be shorter. We are never satisfied with what we have, and maybe this same principle holds true when it comes to boyfriends. In any case, I leave all of the Kasey’s of the world with this one final word of advice: Dry your tears, replace all turtlenecks for muscle tees, and trade the roses you were about to purchase for weeds because apparently this is what women really want.

Let’s start with the obvious part: “women are” and “men are” and “women want this…”. This is the easiest shit to start with because, as a women I can clearly state that I want a sensitive guy.

I have a Hubby who buys me flowers and other small tokens for no reason but he loves me. I have a Hubby who just last week made me cookies because I was in desperate need of a chocolate fix. He doesn’t sing, but despite not having much in the way of practice, will still take me dancing. This flower-buying, dancing, cookie-making sweetheart is the person I MARRIED, not dismissed. His affection didn’t “frighten me” it is what attracted me to him in the first place.

I have also held him while he’s cried, and I know that he did not feel emasculated. We’ve already seen each other through some very dark times in our lives, and it didn’t make us feel like we were babies or unmanly- it made us feel strong in our relationship; like we could trust each other with our true selves. This “lie to one another so someone will like you” is the most damaging, unsatisfying thing I could think to do in a relationship.

Now, on to bullshit number two: while flowers just because and cookies are sweet, what she described Kasey as doing is not “sweet” it’s “creepy and stalkerish”. I don’t watch the show, but if someone showed that much emotion it would set off warning bells to me. His behavior meant that he was treating the young woman as a cypher- a “woman creature” to which he could perform the actions of a “sensitive male”. Trading in turtlenecks for muscle tees would not address the fact that he was treating someone as an interchangeable cog, and the fact that he was performing rather than being an actual person. Just because “women” don’t want creepy stalkers doesn’t mean that they want macho meatheads either. This isn’t about the grass being greener: this is about wanting a person and not a role; a medium and not an extreme. I complain about the 100 F degree weather in the summer and the -20 F degree weather in the winter- this neither makes me a hypocrite or too picky. It means I like neither of those temperatures.

And, I know my husband is not the “perfect man” but rather he’s a man well-suited to me. There are other women who would want their guy to be a little more serious than my fun-loving husband. There are other women who would prefer a husband who was more pacifistic, or musically inclined, or what have you. There are some women who’d want a partner with a lot more X chromosomes than my husband. I know that my “type” is not the “type” that attracts everyone- women are different, and will want different people. But this “women, you thought you wanted respect and affection, but you know you want to be ignored and abused because that’s “manly”" is complete and utter bullshit (and heterocentric to the extreme).

Psychology Today, fail.

Useful redefinitions

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Hope is another word for powerlessness.

Rights are a shared fiction benefiting the powerful.

Obedience, at least when it comes to politics, is the same thing as support.

Progressives are people who keep chasing progress to amend progress.

“Will you tell those dumbasses at the tea party to stop asking questions about birth certificates while I’m on the camera? God, what am I supposed to do?”

Monday, July 26th, 2010

US Senate candidate Ken Buck of Colorado, referring to his own voter base. It should mean something to him that these are the people who are his voter base, but clearly he’s missing the tangy irony here.

This reminds me so much of my dad.

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

‘Conan’ painting by late Pa. artist goes for $1.5M.

When my mom and I first moved in with my dad, I was eight years old but already showing signs of the sf-fantasy geek I would develop into–he had a lot of posters up in his bachelor’s pad, and this was indeed one of them.

Some other examples of my dad’s wall deco below the fold–Frazetta and Vallejo dominated:


Omg, I just had a brilliant idea.

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite children’s books was The Case of the Marble Monster and Other Tales of Ooka the Wise. I don’t know if this was a staple of too many other American kids’ childhoods (nobody else has ever mentioned it in my hearing) but I loved it, and one of my favorite stories was when Ooka, a judge, heard a case against a poor student living above a fish cookshop. Every day the student smelled the delicious odors of frying fish which he said helped flavor the plain bowl of rice which was all he could afford to eat. The cookshop owner was incensed and insisted that he be paid restitution by the student for “stealing the smell” of his cooking fish. Ooka deliberated, then instructed the student to pass a handful of coins from one hand to the other several times until they clinked merrily together, then told the cookshop owner he’d been paid. The cookshop owner angrily demanded how that was possible, since the student had given him no money, and Ooka told him that “the price of the smell of food is the sound of money” and then dismissed the case.

So I was reading yet another article about the Arizona immigration circus, this one about the hearings going on right now in federal court by challengers to the new law, and remembering reading about the possibility that parts, not all, of the law would be struck down–and then, like a flash of light, it hit me. I know how to fix the “show me your papers” part of the law, which is a grotesque violation of civil rights. Give Arizona law enforcement the power to ask anyone anytime what their citizenship is–keep that part. Just change the papers part to allowing a verbal or visual affirmative response to confirm any questionee’s legal status. Like this:

Arizona cop: Are you a legal citizen of the United States?
Brown-skinned person who was totes not profiled prior to being stopped: Fuck yeah.
Arizona cop: Well, then you’re free to go, sir. Have a nice day.

See? All teddy bears and rainbows. :)

Comic book geeks 14, Westboro Baptist Church 1.

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Best protest signs evar. My favorites:

I think we all know how I feel about the Hypnotoad.

I think I have that one somewhere in the back basement room, too!

The first rule of tautology club.

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Protest signs have never really been the height of discourse.

A man wearing a cyborg Dick Cheney mask holds a sign reading, "War is healthy for Bush, Wall Street, and other imperialists."

Sometimes they’re clever, sometimes witty. Sometimes they sketch around the outlines of an interesting argument.

That isn’t really their point, though, and you’re not going to fit a nuanced look at geopolitics or community building on a 2′x4′ piece of foam board. So, mostly, protest signs call out the demands you’ve heard so many times before. They’re slogans; they’re cheers; they’re threats—we could have come with pitchforks, they offer, but we brought these instead.

Protestors hold up signs reading, "Impeach Bush!," "Make Soup Not War," and "God Bless Iraq."

So I don’t expect to see arguments, exactly, on the NOM protestors’ signs. But perhaps I expected synecdoche. Something about health, or abuse, or AIDS, or children, or the abuse of unhealthy AIDS children.


This is awesome.

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

I had never heard of this before today, when I was browsing through Sam Kean’s Blogging the Periodic Table series on Slate. If you hadn’t either, you should really check it out. Some of my favorites from the 2009 Ig Nobel Prizes, awarded for scientific work that, er, either cannot or should not be reproduced (the 2010 Prizes won’t be awarded til the end of September):

PEACE PRIZE: Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.
REFERENCE: “Are Full or Empty Beer Bottles Sturdier and Does Their Fracture-Threshold Suffice to Break the Human Skull?” Stephan A. Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael J. Thali and Beat P. Kneubuehl, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, vol. 16, no. 3, April 2009, pp. 138-42. DOI:10.1016/j.jflm.2008.07.013.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid — specifically from tequila.
REFERENCE: “Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila,” Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor M. Castano, 2008, arXiv:0806.1485. Also published as Reviews on Advanced Materials Science, vol. 22, no. 1, 2009, pp. 134-8.

PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don’t tip over.
REFERENCE: “Fetal Load and the Evolution of Lumbar Lordosis in Bipedal Hominins,” Katherine K. Whitcome, Liza J. Shapiro & Daniel E. Lieberman, Nature, vol. 450, 1075-1078 (December 13, 2007). DOI:10.1038/nature06342.

BIOLOGY PRIZE: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90% in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.
REFERENCE: “Microbial Treatment of Kitchen Refuse With Enzyme-Producing Thermophilic Bacteria From Giant Panda Feces,” Fumiaki Taguchia, Song Guofua, and Zhang Guanglei, Seibutsu-kogaku Kaishi, vol. 79, no 12, 2001, pp. 463-9. [and abstracted in Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, vol. 92, no. 6, 2001, p. 602.]
REFERENCE: “Microbial Treatment of Food-Production Waste with Thermopile Enzyme-Producing Bacterial Flora from a Giant Panda” [in Japanese], Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, Yasunori Sugai, Hiroyasu Kudo and Akira Koikeda, Journal of the Japan Society of Waste Management Experts, vol. 14, no. 2, 2003, pp. , 76-82.

Fear and Hatred of the Other

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I don’t understand it. Part of me doesn’t want to understand it, either; as with exploring the motives of pedophiles, it leaves me queasy and shaken in any kind of belief in the basic goodness of mankind. However, I should understand it in order to better combat it…I suppose…meh…it’s really hard to work up enthusiasm for plunging your hands into untreated sewage, you know?

Two news items today: One is Sarah Palin’s admittedly very funny Twitter debacle, where she confuses “not knowing what existing words mean” with “inventing new words.” Is she too stupid to be embarrassed? But aside from the vocabulary funzies, this was the sentiment:

Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing.

I feel unprovoked and unstabbed. Really. Now, the case could be made that I am not a New Yorker and therefore, perhaps, am missing some special degree of angst that would make this all explicable; however, Sarah Palin’s not one either. And in my case, I was actually within some geographical proximity of 9/11 events. Anybody remember this..?

(The US Pentagon, 9/11)
…or this?

(Near miss of the US Capitol–in rural Pennsylvania about 20 minutes from DC)

There are lots of terrorists out there. I remember learning in the 5th grade that while all squares are rectangles, not all rectangles are squares. And in this case, it can’t even be claimed that well yes I’m sure not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists ARE Muslim, you know..! Neither Ted Kaczynski nor Timothy McVeigh were Muslims, for example. Since 1977, 41 abortion clinics have been bombed–forty-one!–and to the best of my knowledge, none of the bombers were even remotely Muslim. Among these were an abortion clinic and two physicians’ offices in Pensacola, Florida were bombed in the early morning of Christmas Day, 1984, by a quartet of young people (Matt Goldsby, Jimmy Simmons, Kathy Simmons, Kaye Wiggins) who later called the bombings “a gift to Jesus on his birthday.”

I’ve also heard the argument that the Koran encourages Muslims to kill unbelievers. Gee, now there’s a point. I mean, just listen to these!

Suppose you hear in one of the towns that God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock.

If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him.

Whoever sacrifices to any god, except the Lord alone, shall be doomed.

They entered into a covenant to seek the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord their God was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

Oops, wait!…those are from the Bible.

This, and the ongoing furor over illegal immigrants, has really led me down a depressing path. “Several states” (reported variously as nine, ten or twelve depending on where I’m looking) are supposedly following Arizona’s lead in obsessing about their undocumented worker populations. Why the obsession..? I’ve heard it variously and defensively described as “Well they’re breaking the LAW don’t you CARE about the LAW?” (frequently put forth by people who regularly speed, jaywalk, cheat on their taxes and smoke weed–a rather selective reverence towards the LAW)


“Well they’re costing us MONEY WELFARE!” (Nevermind the fact that in 2008, the percentage of Arizona’s state budget going towards welfare was 12%…not exactly the lion’s share…and presumably even that isn’t somehow all being distributed to illegal aliens–how could it be?)


“Well they’re taking all our JOBS!” (FactCheck.org doesn’t agree.)

I’m pretty sure it all really boils down to one thing, and for that one thing, see the title of this post.

What We Teach Our Kids

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I have an adorable little nephew. Kid sister has spawned with her husband, and the random result was a little boy that has my sister’s nose and chin, and my brother-in-law’s everything else, only in miniature form. He’s cute, even though he also cements my desire to never have children*. Since it’s not my rugrat, no pictures will be forthcoming (sorry guys).

This kid has been interesting to watch, though. Not that he’s done anything especially newsworthy to anyone who isn’t his family (ah, look how he smiles, and gurgles and coos!), but how people react and change because of him. Kid sister has always been a little flighty- she never really was capable of focusing for more than ten minutes, she was bubbly and she had a sort of laissez-fare attitude towards safety**. Now, she seems to have become extremely cautious. She wouldn’t leave her kid with our mom for an evening out, she’s apparently memorized a whole host of books on child development, and she runs and worries over every little bump and fuss. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, especially the research and effort she put in the kid, just weird. I never believed that “Having children makes you more mature” – I’ve seen too many really immature parents- but apparently there is an anecdata point in my little sister.

Also, I find it interesting how at three months the kid has already been exposed to demonstrating that he is a “boy”. They dress him up in tough little clothes, and I hear how “strong” he is, even though he’s actually adorable more than strong. His parents don’t know what to make of me, I coo to him “Who’s going to grow up to be a radical feminist- you are, you are. Yes, you’ll respect women and I’ll let you cry” and they start freaking out (despite the fact that what the kid most likely hears is “abada da da da auntie’s playing with me *giggle*). I keep telling them I’m going to send him a pink onesie, though they know it’s a false threat (I hate pink- it’s more likely going to be purple).

Finally, the parents are not raising him any particular faith (yet- my guess is they’ll probably cave and end up taking them to church when he’s older) but my mom’s already singing him Bible songs. So far, he’s one of the random babies that hates being song to***, but my kept trying to with songs like “Jesus Loves You”. After listening to this song again, I wonder why we teach this song to anyone.

For those not familiar, this song reads as follows:

Jesus loves me! this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
they are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

There are more lyrics, but like most songs, it’s the first verse and chorus everyone remembers. Simple lyrics, simple melody, a staple of most churches to brainwash little children. Kids, believe this because we repeat it four times! What’s that you say? Generally when someone loves you they demonstrate it by being there for you and not being imaginary? Yeah, but, look- repetition! And, a book says it! What’s that? You have a book that also says that trains can talk and that sky is falling? Those books are just fiction. My book is right (despite having no evidence backing that one up) and also, remember, you’re really weak so you better cozy up to the strong guy. Seriously, this is actually a pretty twisted thing to teach young children. My only hope is, hey, my sisters and I all heard and sang the song and we came out okay- probably the little rugrat will too.

*Eww, eww, fluids. Yuck. Also, it was a hard pregnancy on Kid Sister and I like my sleep too much. Oh, and money.
** For example, jumping out of the barn on to the trampoline, lighting tons of stuff on fire, cutting everything she could get mother’s scissors around, you get the idea.
*** Though for whatever reason, seemed to enjoy my unique song “Eating Various Baby Body Parts”. The lyrics were pretty much as follows: “Look at little baby toes. Yummy, yummy baby toes. I’m going to gobble them up!” This was accompanied by me grabbing onto the body part in question, and then during the “gobble them up” part fake-eating them. Repeat for other parts like fingers, belly, knees and ears. The kid thought it was hilarious, judging by the way he giggled and moved around. So I guess my songs are only actively more disturbing.

This Is So Much Better Than My Undergrad Intro to Engineering Project

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

…but to give me credit where credit is due, the problem posed to us by our instructor was a lot less interesting, too. As I recall, he had us come up with something you could put on your shoes to prevent slipping on an icy sidewalk. The constraints were the same, though, in terms of cheap household objects etc.

The coolness:

Rice University undergraduates Lila Kerr and Lauren Theis were presented with an assignment in their Introduction to Bioengineering and World Health class. As Theis explains:

“We were essentially told we need to find a way to diagnose anemia without power, without it being very costly and with a portable device.”

In a solution short on cost but long on ingenuity, the duo modified a basic, every day salad spinner into an easy to use and transport centrifuge that successfully separates blood to allow diagnosis of anemia with no electricity. The device costs about $30, can process 30 individual 15 microliter blood samples at a time, and can separate blood into its component red cells and plasma in about 20 minutes.