What Are You Doing New Years Eve?

Me personally? I’m about to host a bunch of cool skeptic types for a pajama party/cocktail party/prime rib dinner. If everyone I wanted to have there could come, it would be just about perfect.

How about you?

Saturday Storytime: Sirius

Someday, we may meet a creature that is better at what we do than we are. Ben Peek is an Australian writer.

I pressed him to acknowledge the possibility that a secondary infection, one that was droplet-based, could be carried through the system after being spread by sneezing or dust or mice.

“Are you missing any mice?” he asked.

No, I told him.

He smiled faintly. “Perhaps we can cross that one out, then.”

My response, I admit, was not the most calculated. I have never dealt well with those who cannot see clearly. To my outburst, Commander Cawell straightened and his pale, cold eyes held mine. “Five people have died, doctor. I am not making jokes. Nor am I humoring you anymore. New diseases on our own planet are found all the time, but we do not panic then, nor now. Your belief that the Ta’La are responsible is misplaced.”

When I began to argue, he said, “I suggest you return to your lab.”

My hands curled around the plastic handles, furious.

“You are dismissed,” he said.

Outside, I let out a frustrated breath. How could he be so blind? Already, I could feel a heaviness in the air, as if there was something new to it, something that we had not seen. Ahead of me in the hallway ran small air ducts, just as there were hundreds throughout Sirius, each of them linking back to a central system that was shared by everyone in the station. To me, it was already a beating, diseased heart, spreading the virus across the ship and my breath was a series of shallow, nervous gasps through my teeth as I made my way to my lab and the contamination suit within.

I would live in it for six weeks, the longest of anyone on board Sirius, the longest of anyone who stands around me wordlessly now. Such was my prize for being right.

Keep reading.

Photographing the Male Nude (NSFW, Duh)

A friend of mine is a photographer, who I believe is considering doing some male nude shots. Before going to the trouble of procuring a model and setting up a shoot, she wanted some sense of what worked for her in terms of lighting, posing, and composition. She recently commented (I paraphrase) that the male nudes she saw in other photographers’ work tended to either look like they were posing for an art class or saying, “Hey, baby. I got what you’re looking for right here.” Neither was what she wanted to do.

I’d recently seen some work that I thought might be the kind of thing was interested in, so I was pretty sure I had a good idea where to look. It turns out that a number of queer artists are quite good at taking pictures that appreciate the male form without either making it asexual or reducing it to sex. Go figure.

Tucked below the fold are some links, as well as some pictures. If you’re going to be offended, kindly don’t click through.

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Key to Effective Leadership–For White Men Only

There’s a fair amount of research that’s done on the topic of “organizational effectiveness.” It’s a moneymaker. There’s always a market for people to tell you how to run your business better, whether or not you take that advice. It’s also a field that produces some interesting insights, which is why I followed this link (err, from someone whose taste I trusted, sorry) when I saw it on Twitter:

Although the leaders were from vastly different organizations — military, manufacturing, health care, financial services, retailing and religious — they all agreed that the essence of leader humility involves modeling to followers how to grow.

“Growing and learning often involves failure and can be embarrassing,” says Owens. “But leaders who can overcome their fears and broadcast their feelings as they work through the messy internal growth process will be viewed more favorably by their followers. They also will legitimize their followers’ own growth journeys and will have higher-performing organizations.”

The researchers found that such leaders model how to be effectively human rather than superhuman and legitimize “becoming” rather than “pretending.”

Yay! Realistic leadership is good leadership. Beyond that, it matches our best advice for modeling critical thinking. This is excellent.

Except for one little thing.

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Yes, “Hate *Atheists*”

So, Rebecca Watson once again pointed out what should be a no-brainer–only to have her point ignored by people who want to quibble with her wording. “Oh, noes! Rebecca titled her post, ‘Reddit Makes Me Hate Atheists‘! Oh, noes! But this isn’t about atheists!”

Actually, yes, it is. Rebecca already made the connection in her post, in case you need reminding:

Why would she ever want to be a part of any atheist community, if that’s how she’s treated? The next time you look around your atheist events and wonder where all the women are, think of this and know that there are at least some of us who aren’t willing to just accept this culture without trying to change it.

Here’s the thing, boys and girls: I don’t get this crap anywhere else I choose to invest my time. I don’t get it from my friends, because those people don’t get the privilege of remaining my friend. I don’t get it at work, where they’ve gone well beyond the basic legal requirements in order to make it a place where women also have rewarding work and an opportunity for advancement. As a result, I’m surrounded by smart, confident people of various genders who take everybody seriously. There is the very rare sexist idiot, but the conspiracies we create to work around these people are open and supportive.

I don’t even get it in those legendary bastions of “social ineptitude,” fantasy and science fiction fandom and conventions. Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely still problems, but predators and discriminatory publishing practices are considered problems of the community, and the institutions that support the problems are rightly pressured (and aided) to fix themselves. This “we’re so helpless in the face of a few bad actors” nonsense doesn’t fly.

This is very much about atheism. [Read more...]

“Christ” Is What I Call My Biceps

FreethoughtBlogs has a new sponsor popping up in the sidebar, Not of This World Clothing. No, I’m not going to link to it. It will be gone soon, as we try to get rid of ads that don’t actually offer our audience anything they may want.

Their tagline is “Bold Christian clothing.” I haven’t managed to work out yet what they mean by “bold.” It’s either a reference to their t-shirts having oversized graphics or their persecution complex in action. Because, you know, it takes so much bravery to come out as a worshipper of Christ in our Christian Nation®. Or something.

Whatever they mean by it, apparently Bold Christian men look like washed and pressed skatepunks, and Bold Christian women wear hearts in bright colors. Well, they do if they’re not planning to be strong. [Read more...]

It’s the Authority, Stupid

Massimo Pigliucci has a post up entitled “The goals of atheist activism.” *sigh*

I recommend PZ’s post deconstructing much of Massimo’s argument and note that Massimo is every bit as wrong about the confrontational tactics of the gay rights movement as he is about the civil rights movement. If he thinks people weren’t called “murderers” over their response to the AIDS crisis, he wasn’t paying attention. 

I’ll add a harumph of my own for the idea that atheists don’t experience “real discrimination.” Maybe Massimo and his friends have things cushy enough that the kinds of discrimination atheists face aren’t real to them. It’s a little different for those who had to fight to prove they were fit to be custodial parents. It’s different for those politicians who know they can’t aspire to higher office without facing de facto religious tests in their districts. It’s different for those who work for religious bosses or companies and get to choose between being quiet and fighting a lawsuit for discriminatory treatment or termination that they can’t actually afford.

But this post isn’t actually about atheists. This post is about the fact that Massimo still managed to miss my main goal in his list, despite me pointing him to my response to the Stedman article when Massimo linked it on Twitter. [Read more...]

Evidence on the Hebephilia Question

It’s funny how the best argument against allowing hebephiles to have sex with children is a hebephile arguing s/he should be allowed to do as s/he wishes. If you have a strong stomach for this sort of thing, feel free to read the comments on my prior post on the topic. If not, what you really need to know is that one showed up insisting that “Yes” was consent to be taken at face value and the harm of these relationships was an extraordinary claim. Also, consent is only an issue if there’s some demonstration of harm, and sex is healthy, so it’s always good.

So, time to shed a little science on the matter. Let’s start with a couple of definitions, since those are also in dispute in the comments.

Child: We are discussing the rights of a child and the responsibilities of a society toward children. By international treaty, a child is defined for these purposes as “Every human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable under the child majority is attained earlier.”

Hebephilia: “sexual preference for individuals in the early years of puberty (generally ages 11–14, though onset of puberty may vary).”

Now for the documentation of harm. Wherever possible, sources are reviews of the literature available without special access.

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Reaction Times and IQ Tests

As Bryan Pesta recently commented that his attempts to attack my expertise rather than my arguments on IQ is justified by my treatment of him, I thought I’d pull this out of the archive so everyone could judge it. This was originally published on Greg Laden’s Blog, with much additional discussion (with most of Bryan Pesta’s comments on the post, including his intimating that I could get into trouble for linking his study) on my old blog. The discussion of practice effects has been tweaked here for clarity.

In the ongoing discussion about disparities between racial classifications on IQ tests, Dr. Bryan Pesta requested that we consider his paper, “Black-White differences on IQ and grades: The mediating role of elementary cognitive tasks.” Because as he rightly points out, not everyone will have the background to evaluate the paper, I thought it would be helpful to discuss the paper in the context of the cognitive science literature.

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