when the status quo frustrates.

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.

What? Boys can do stuff too?

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

The real reason I am briefly reappearing is to plug Harriet Jacobs’s outstanding blog Fugitivus. She’s very introspective– painfully so at times– but that’s what makes her writing sear itself into your brain. Well, mine anyway. But in a good way.

In particular, I wanted to call attention to a page she created called “Stuff What Boys Can Do” which has a terrific idea. Recognizing Lisa’s point about just how dangerous it can be for men to stand up to misogyny in an all-male environment, and how the situation isn’t always an easy cut-and-dried one, she’s attempting to compile a survey of real actions that men have taken, large or small, to support women when it would have been easier not to. I guess the idea is that a list of positive examples might be of some inspiration to men who would like to be strong in this way but aren’t quite ready yet (I feel this way myself much of the time, actually). And also, a large enough list of examples might start to reveal common themes which would allow us men to more easily recognize where and how we might help fight misogyny in our own lives.

Have you already thought of an example? Then get over there and share it!

What Can I Do?

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

I’m looking for ways to volunteer in my community. The catch is, I live in Fukuoka, Japan, and my Japanese language skills, while functional for my daily life, are really not at a level where I can be useful in the same ways I could in an English-speaking country. Which is to say, I talk like a four-year-old. At least I can talk at all, but still, options. Kind of limited.

My vague thoughts on the matter run like this. I’ll get Japanese friends to help me research, and see if I can find a worthy oppression-fighting organization, and then offer my services by:

1. giving free English lessons to their activists (if it’s a group for whom this is helpful);
2. helping with childcare, if their activists rely on any kind of volunteer childcare– maybe I could even lead some free music or English classes for the kids, since, after all, teaching English to Japanese kids is my regular day job; or
3. doing anything else they think I could helpfully do.

I’m a bit stymied by my language restrictions. I’m afraid any kind of proper activism is beyond my means right now. I mean, I guess I can just ladle out soup to the homeless if need be…

Please share any other ideas you might have.

Live Commodities, Cheap and Plentiful. And There’s a Hell of a Market For Them.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

The opening clip in this video about made me throw up, but I still applaud the effort to shed more light on the situation. Both my significant other and I were in the military—he was actually sent to South Korea for a month when he was nineteen. He said soon after he got there, he was walking down the street and a man waved him down, hissing, “You like girls? You like?” He was a skinny, baby-faced and fairly innocent nineteen, and didn’t “get” the question; he said something like, “Well yeah, I like girls–” and the guy began offering him…girls. Not nineteen-year-old girls, eighteen-year-old girls, even fifteen- or sixteen-year-old girls, but twelve-and-under-year-old girls.

Most folks in the Army don’t want to be stationed in Asia; it’s really far from home, it’s desperately poor and depressing and the Army won’t pay for your family to come and live with you there–it’s considered “hardship duty.” However, both the S.O. and I knew cadres of guys, not nearly as small in numbers as you’d really wish they were…they volunteered for the duty. And everybody knew why, including their commanding officers. But the Army needed people to go willingly, so it was the Big Secret That Wasn’t A Secret At All, those guys’ repeated trips to the far east…why they liked so much to go.

Since then, in civillian life, I’ve periodically met in person, or been told casually in passing of, guys who take all their vacations in Thailand, or Cambodia, or Vietnam, or etc.—obsessively; they go practically nowhere else. I don’t know them or of them well enough to say anything, but I can’t help but wonder. Then I try not to think about it, because I don’t know. But I still feel sick inside, and helpless, and like I should be doing something—how can I know about this, have known about it for over a decade and not do anything?

So this is my small and completely inadequate attempt to raise awareness.

Silly putty is viscoelastic

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

I promised you guys a polymer lecture, and I had a good boring one about polymer stabilized systems all mapped out in my brain. Lucky for you, I spent the day engaged in some very cutting-edge research on polymers, or at least that’s how we explained it to our boss when he came into the lab and found us examining the flow properties of silly putty. We’d had two samples of silly putty running down a filing cabinet for almost a month, and were analyzing the data. So let’s talk about silly putty instead.

Silly putty is a great polymer with a bunch of science packed into it. Silly putty is one of those accidental inventions, the by-product of war-era research on synthetic rubbers. While the story goes that the inventor sent samples of his bizarre polymer to scientists all over the world and none of them could think of a damn thing to do with it, I suspect they weren’t even trying. Most scientists when given an object will immediately spew out six different applications they’d like to apply it to, of which one might work and if we’re lucky won’t be prohibitively expensive. Either way, the entrepreneurs persevered by realizing that just because something is impractical doesn’t mean people don’t want it and today silly putty is not only a popular toy, but has found plenty of applications.

Silly putty’s weirdness stems from it’s odd flow properties: it bounces like a rubber ball, but can be smushed easily if pressed slowly. Some materials react differently to stress depending on how quickly the stress is applied. This is called a ‘viscoelastic’ response, where visco = flowy and elastic = bouncy. Most things give you a choice, either or but not both, but silly putty is in a special catagory of materials that can do both, depending on how you poke them.

“Quickly” is a relative term, and part of learning to be a scientist is learning how to combine a bunch of material parameters and spit out a decent time scale. Silly putty happens to have a very human-friendly natural relaxation timescale where shocks that are quick to us (bouncing, hammering) are also quick to the putty and slower but people-friendly stresses like kneading are slow enough to cause the flow response. Some materials that flow, like glass (which is not in the same family of materials as silly putty at all), flow so slowly that you wouldn’t notice a difference if you had a dozen lifetimes to sit there and watch,so we can pretty much always treat them as a solid. I’ve heard that stained glass windows in old-school European cathedrals are supposed to be almost imperceptibly thicker towards the bottom, and that this has been attributed to glass flowing downward under the influence of gravity, but at least one of my professors believes that this famous and fun example is probably a load of crap. I’ve never sat down and done the math myself, so I have no idea if hundreds of years is enough time to notice a difference. Point is, how long it takes a material to respond to different forces can be very important when it comes to considering how and if you can use it in a particular application, and silly putty might not be as fun if it had a different relaxation time.

There is a very good PDF on this topic over at the Cambridge Polymer Group’s website, including pictures of a sheet of silly putty with a bullet going through it. Also of note is this experiment where 50 pounds of silly putty were dropped off a parking garage.

You can make silly putty very easily at home with glue and a few other things, but some recipes involve ingredients that you may not have laying around and I’ve never tried any of the elmer’s glue ones myself so I don’t know how well it would work. A viscoelastic fluid that is easy to make at home and actually a little cooler (but a lot messier) than silly putty is cornstarch and water. Pretend you’re making a thickening agent for stew, but reverse the relative amounts of cornstarch and water so that it is mostly cornstarch. You’ll end up with a material that you can pour from one hand to the other but feels like a brick wall if you slap it. Also it will cover everything it touches in a fine dusting of starch, so tell your kids to keep it outside.

All I remember about sex ed is that ill-advised condom on a hot dog demo.

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

Sex and money, together at last.

There, that ought to be good for a few interesting stats on Google Analytics. Anyway, DoGooder.tv is offering prizes for sex ed videos, and quite frankly I can’t see why any 15-30 year old would pass up the chance to win a scholarship or an iPhone just for ranting about how much sex ed sucks in an entertaining way. So if you have a video camera and some extra time on your hands think about entering the FreshFocusVideoContest.

Rainbow Girl needs you to show her cause some love

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

Rainbow Girl makes her debut in comic activism with


stars in SEXY WAR!

34 pages of feminism drawn in the same style (and lets face it, we all did it) of all your greatest college in-group comics. Team Rainbow, consisting of Rainbow Girl, her Rainbow Guy and a cast of zany friends, have to figure out why team member Solar E. Clips is too ill to debate the sexist cobags in her class. Meanwhile, a rogue vagina dentata is meting out fantasy feminist judgment left and right on rapists, pundits and politicians alike.

The comic is especially concerned with the relationship between sexism and war, with a special emphasis on who really benefits from endless, resource-sucking fighting.

At $6 (and all proceeds going to the African women’s village of Umoja Uaso) this comic is a must-have. It’s Rainbow Girl’s first attempt, so don’t expect Bechdel-level writing or pacing from her yet, but it does have some really cute characters (including a Spectrum Queen reminiscent of Synergy from Jem. Remember Jem? She was truly outrageous), some great, clear-cut examples of patriarchy all over the world, and quite the shout-out to the importance of feminist-minded men speaking out as well as a page of information on sexual assault and resources for men interested in taking an active role in fighting it, as well as a page on Umoja Uaso. As you might imagine, there is a lot going on in this book.

Quite frankly it’s worth $6 for the vagina dentata alone. That thing is adorable. It is a really cute comic raising money for a most excellent cause and in the future you’ll be glad you have one to show everyone else that you supported Rainbow Girl long before her hardcover graphic novels started getting so much shelf space at Borders.

Visit Rainbow Girl to get one.

Find out more about Umoja Uaso.

40 Years of Occupation

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

This week marks 40 years of Israel’s occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. It will be marked by worldwide protests. Undoubtedly, only those protests that involve property destruction or violence will make the news. Stories about the violence of the occupation itself, like this news segment from Al Jazeera, are frequently not told at all outside of the Arab press:

Sam PF has an excellent round-up of links, including retrospectives on what these past 40 years have meant for both Palestinians and Israelis, and current stories about daily life under the occupation. It’s well worth a read.


The perks of not being an asshole

Saturday, April 14th, 2007

It turns out the Flash Gordon crew had nothing to worry about. Look what happened to Chris Clarke when he peeled off that male privilege and washed it down the sink. That’s what it’s often like when you’re a decent person because you want to be. For fuck’s sake, as long as you don’t tell anyone that you’re only being nice and understanding and shit to get women to stroke your ego, you’ll probably get the same results he did, if you can manage to be half as charming.

I mean, using your privilege is another option, and there’s certainly an argument for that. I imagine following strange women around to watch them squirm would make a guy feel pretty powerful. It might even get some of your friends to buy you a beer.

The one I wouldn’t go for is whining about how you want to be a nice guy, really you do, but you just can’t stand the thought of toiling away in the darkness and dying an unsung hero. You don’t get the gratitude or the asshole rush out of that, so what’s the point?

Who does a blog have to blow to get a little recognition around here?

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

Via Sadly, No!, Americans for Truth have set up a convenient list of pro-homosexual organizations, just in case you was wondering where the gays were at so you could, uhhh…hate them, yes, that’s it. So you’d be aware of where they were as you thought about how much you hate that sin, that throbbing, sweaty, panting, sexy sii….

OK, take a deep breath, and focus on the homos.

I was a bit disappointed by their blog list, though. It’s so short!

Pro-Homosexuality Blogs

* Andrew Sullivan
* Evil Gay Lawyer
* Ex-Gay Watch
* Faggoty-Ass Faggot
* Good As You
* Joe Brummer
* News Fit to Post
* Pam’s House Blend
* Queer Today
* Queerty
* Quench Zine
* Sadly No
* Skinny Little Faggot
* The Angry Fag

That is one short list though. It’s missing at least one entry that I know of…us!

That’s right, PunkAssBlog is pro-homosexual, whatever that means! Now we’re not much of a resource, but then again, I don’t see Sadly, No photoshopping exclusivly for the gays either. And even though we’re only a B-list blog:
B-List Blogger
I think we can make up for it by being extra-pro-gay.

And sexier. I note that some of those so-called “gay resources” do not infact devote any webspace to tantalizing descriptions of gay sex or video from various homosexual orgy parades. Whereas we, on the other hand, have at least one post devoted to Marc’s hot, naked chest complete with an attempt to lure a Christian blogger into the lifestyle via a sneaky chest-off. How’s that for gay, huh? Pretty gay, I think.

Give me a G! Give me an A! Give me a G-A-Y! Yaaaaayyyyyy Gaaaaayyyyyy! Look, I’ve even got pom-poms:

EB023486.gif pompom.PNG

Can we be on the list now?

Consider helping Americans for Truth out. If you are aware of any gay resources, go ahead and send them a message.

The war for the space between your nipples

Friday, July 7th, 2006

After reminding us of Cindy Sheehan’s t-shirt arrest, Crooks and Liars links to this recent event at Selves and Others:

This afternoon, drinking a cup of coffee while sitting in the Jesse Brown V.A. Medical Center on Chicago’s south side, a Veterans Administration cop walked up to me and said, “OK, you’ve had your 15 minutes, it’s time to go.” “Huh?”, I asked intelligently, not quite sure what he was talking about.

“You can’t be in here protesting,” officer Adkins said, pointing to my Veterans For Peace shirt.”Well, I’m not protesting, I’m having a cup of coffee,” I returned, thinking that logic would convince Adkins to go back to his earlier duties of guarding against serious terrorists. Flipping his badge open, he said, “No, not with that shirt. You’re protesting and you have to go…

The FCC and friends have done an admirable job protecting our children from freethink-based ribaldry over the airwaves, but they’ve dropped the ball on shutting down the most unregulated communication medium in America: the chest.

I’ll be honest. The only reason I’m a liberal is because I once saw this t-shirt:
peace shirt

My fragile little mind was forever warped. Visions of doobies and ’60s dancing girls filled my frontal lobes, forever occupying the space normally reserved for golf and learning how to put your wife in her place.

If you think about it, t-shirts are 100 times worse than television. A bad word or a wardrobe malfunction flits by in less than a second. But an offensive t-shirt could be shoved in your face and the face of your child the entire time you’re enjoying a family lunch at Hooters. You don’t want your kids to turn out like me, do you?

As is the case whenever the feds drop the ball, local authorities had to step in, this time to stop the obscene protest going on at the VA Medical Center. Thank god that cop saw the “Veteran for Peace” shirt for what it was: traitory. I mean traitoriety. Traitordom? Let’s go with traitorousness. Calls for peace this day and age translate into Arabic as “Please come shoot us all in the face, you evil Muslim bastards,” and for a former soldier to bend over and ask for it like that chaffes the hide of many a petty authoritarian.

If you don’t think we need to nip this in the bud right this moment, I’ll remind you a little girl was recently expelled from a church-clothes shopping trip in Missouri for wearing a bandana featuring peace signs. Peace signs. Sound familiar? She’s practically waving the terrorists between her legs with that fairy tale love-not-war crap.

Please, folks, we have to stop the peace madness. Every time you flash the deuce or wear that well-hung Mercedes-Benz symbol, a terrorist gets his AK.

Now where did I put my cumdumpster shirt? Oh, there it is:

Oiy vey!

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

A note to the “what about the men?” commenter, those women’s Domestic violence shelters weren’t created through the amazing socialist policies of the american government, they were built and created from scratch by feminists.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you can do the same, you just need faith in yourself. And once you’ve got such a thing up and running feminists will support you, if only because it stops having to listen to the constant whining from MRAs about it.

I do hope the illogical of sticking abused men in the same shelters as abused women, and the inevitable abuses that would lead to segregation being neccesary anyway, doesn’t have to be pointed out to you.

Blame The Patriarchy, then Bush and his immoral gutting of the social services as well as his bullshit use of patriarchal identity politics which means that no Butch Manly American political weasel will vote to protect men from domestic violence, because that would involve noting that men aren’t inherently dominant and involve helping homosexuals, both of which are anathema in the current socio-political climate. Seriously, all snark aside, feminists would love for such abused men’s shelters to exist, we’re not standing in your way.