She Has a Case

More news on the Adria Richards front. I missed it at the time as I was, ironically, looking up information on retaliation for making sexual harassment complaints for the information of someone close to me. (Propositioned by a manager; written up and hours cut after making the complaint; walked next door and snagged a better job immediately.) Thanks to John Scalzi for the link. My work means this comes as no surprise to me, though.

But that firing could be hard to defend in court, say labor law attorneys.

“It’s a tough one,” said Rob Pattison, a San Francisco attorney who represents employers for the Jackson Lewis law firm. “The law is strong in protecting people who make complaints of harassment, or who participate in an investigation about complaints of harassment.”

That would be Richards’ firing, of course. The firing of the person whose picture was tweeted, even if he were fired only for that event, is probably legal, even as we don’t have the information to tell whether it was warranted. Richards, on the other hand… [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species

This is hardly the first time Ken Liu‘s work has been featured here. As long as I keep post award-nominated stories, I doubt it will be the last.

The Hesperoe once wrote with strings of symbols that represented sounds in their speech, but now no longer write at all.

They have always had a complicated relationship with writing, the Hesperoe. Their great philosophers distrusted writing. A book, they thought, was not a living mind yet pretended to be one. It gave sententious pronouncements, made moral judgments, described purported historical facts, or told exciting stories . . . yet it could not be interrogated like a real person, could not answer its critics or justify its accounts.

The Hesperoe wrote down their thoughts reluctantly, only when they could not trust the vagaries of memory. They far preferred to live with the transience of speech, oratory, debate.

At one time, the Hesperoe were a fierce and cruel people. As much as they delighted in debates, they loved even more the glories of war. Their philosophers justified their conquests and slaughter in the name of forward motion: War was the only way to animate the ideals embedded in the static text passed down through the ages, to ensure that they remained true, and to refine them for the future. An idea was worth keeping only if it led to victory.

When they finally discovered the secret of mind storage and mapping, the Hesperoe stopped writing altogether.

Keep reading.

Not in Public!

In case you’re behind on the news, coder and blogger Adria Richards has been fired from her job at SendGrid after posting on Twitter the picture of two guys sitting behind her at a tech conference (PyCon) who were joking about “big dongles” and “forking” someone at the conference (with additional jokes about how”forking” meant sex) and saying that this was not appropriate behavior for a conference.

The reaction to Richards’ tweet started well enough. A conference organizer saw it and took the two guys aside for a chat. That’s the ideal reaction: low-key, with room for the guys involved to fix the problem going forward or make it clear that they value their “right” to make sexual jokes over the right of other conference goers to focus on the content of the conference.

Then one of the two guys involved was fired. Companies don’t usually make the reasons for that sort of thing public for legal reasons, so we don’t know why. We don’t know whether this was part of a pattern of behavior. We don’t know whether the company has a very strict zero-tolerance policy. We don’t even know whether the firing was related to the tweet.

What we do know is that Adria Richards, being a public figure in the tech world, was very easy to track down and target for retribution. So a bunch of people complained to her bosses. 4chan initiated a DDoS attack on the company. Instead of standing with their employee who was receiving a torrent of sexist, threatening abuse, SendGrid fired her.

Perhaps because I’ve seen the reactions of far too much of the secular and skeptic movements to the kind of constant harassment many of the women doing their work have received, so I’m worn down and jaded, but sacrificing the victim to the terrorists isn’t even the part of this that has me the most pissed off. [Read more…]

“Last Ape Standing”, Chip Walter on Atheists Talk

Human beings are alone in the world. Homo sapiens are the only remainders of genus homo. Our closest relatives are chimps and bonobos, but many of our closer relatives have been lost to time.

In his book, Last Ape Standing: The Seven-Million-Year Story of How and Why We Survived, science journalist and documentarian Chip Walter explores how we came to stand alone and what happened to our very distant cousins. From the publisher’s description:

Drawing on a wide variety of scientific disciplines, Walter reveals how a rare evolutionary phenomenon led to the uniquely long childhoods that make us so resourceful and emotionally complex. He looks at why we developed a new kind of mind and how our highly social nature has shaped our moral (and immoral) behavior. And in exploring the traits that enabled our success, he plumbs the roots of our creativity and investigates why we became self-aware in ways that no other animal is. Along the way, Last Ape Standing profiles other human species who evolved with us and who have also shaped our kind in startling ways – the Neanderthals of Europe, the “Hobbits” of Indonesia, the Denisovans of Siberia, and the recently discovered Red Deer Cave people of China, who died off just as we stood at the brink of civilizations eleven thousand years ago.

Related Links:

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They Knew

I’m seeing people here and there try to tell me that the Steubenville rapists and their enabling friends didn’t know that what they were doing was wrong. I’m seeing people who should know better, or at least know to ask an expert, saying this.

Let’s get this perfectly clear: They knew what they were doing was wrong.

If they hadn’t known, they would have done it while she was conscious. If they hadn’t known, they wouldn’t have talked about their being anything for their coach to take care of. If they hadn’t known, they wouldn’t have spent so much time dehumanizing their victim telling each other and the world why she “deserved” it. If they hadn’t known, they wouldn’t have talked about rape.

They knew what they did was wrong. They simply felt entitled to do it anyway.

This is why they were cool with having the coach cover things up. This is why they expected their friends to laugh at the pictures and video. This is why the victim’s “crime” wasn’t being at the party but reporting–and being successful in the prosecution.

They felt entitled to do something they knew was wrong and get away with it. They thought they were the special people.

They weren’t. They aren’t. They’re just a bunch of kids.

They are not, however, mentally incompetent or criminally “insane”. Those are what we label those situations in which people really don’t understand that what they’re doing is wrong. Kids with good grades, lots of friends, and no psychotic break? Yeah, they’re not those people.

The rapists and their friends knew that what they were doing was wrong. They just felt entitled to go ahead and do it anyway.

A Platform for Reasonable Dialog (Updated)

A couple of weeks ago, I was praising Mick Nugent for pushing Justin Vacula to get detailed on what Vacula considers to be unacceptable treatment even for people he disagrees with.  Sadly, Vacula stopped responding the day I complimented Nugent on getting specific, except for plugging his new podcast:

@ - Thanks for accepting invitation to appear on #BraveHero Radio. Here are open dates: April 6, April 13, April 20, April 27
Justin Vacula

and telling Nugent to keep doing what he’s doing even though Vacula has stopped participating:

Ophelia Benson really hates critical commentary which she can't control. Don't give in to pressure @ - allow open discusion.
Justin Vacula

Why does Vacula want to see this continue even though he doesn’t find it worth participating in? Well, I’m just guessing here, but that guess is that, like pretty much any discussion that has happened at a third-party blog in at least the last nine months, the folks from the slime pit have viewed this as an opportunity to go after the reputations of “the baboons”; i.e., a shifting group of people who are arguing for practices to make organized skepticism and secularism more generally inviting to women.

Nugent doesn’t see what he’s doing quite that way. [Read more…]

Not a Promising Future

There are plenty of people who have said smart, thoughtful things about CNN’s talking-head commentary on the Steubenville verdict, many of them right here. Read them. They cover everything I would have thought to say about those public effects of rape culture and more than I could manage right now. Me? I’d like to say a few words about football.

We really, really need to face the fact that football–along with other competitive sports but perhaps more so than any of them–is not a promising future. Football is an industry that chews up and spits out a huge number of our male children for the benefit of schools and team owners and a population that has been trained to find its own worth in other people’s efforts.

Very few players see much benefit from playing football. [Read more…]

Mine All Mine

It’s a day of accomplishing too many things, but this was one of the things.

Pair of black, 2.5-inch, modified Louis heel Mary Janes with gray stripe for lacing.They make me very happy. They hardly feel like heels, and they’re as adorable as they look. They’ll also last forever.

I may have to swap out the laces for ribbon, though.