The specific gravity of cold-press coffee

Okay, a bit of a misleading title, but I like it nonetheless.

I just had a minor bit of unpleasant SIWOTI, only in meatspace instead of On The Internet. I don’t think I handled it entirely appropriately but that’s mostly because as a nerd, these things do matter to me. But interacting with other people also matters to me.

Caribou Coffee is a local answer to Starbucks that falls about halfway between Tim Horton’s and Starbucks on the scale of fancy-fancy frou-frou (which is a scalar value, obviously). They have a trivia question on a chalkboard next to their menu every day, and getting it right will knock ten cents off your order. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a fun little thing. Today’s question was: “What is Mars’ gravitational pull (relative to Earth’s)?”
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Why are YOU here?

I’ve had this question rattling around in my head for almost a year now: why am I here, in the skeptical and atheist communities? Why do I include the labels “skeptic” and “atheist” in bio blurbs, and why do I cover topics and follow discussions associated with those labels? Why, given how little commonality I have with many of the folks who work full-time in these communities, given that some of the causes I care about the most are derided by vast swathes of the people with whom I’m expected to break bread, should I spend my time and effort on parts of my identity that I don’t find assaulted on a daily basis?

And more importantly, why are others in these communities? What do their reasons for being here say about the makeup of these communities?
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A Voice For Men: willing to publish libel to “prove” points about fake rape claims – part 2, logic and language

This one’s gonna be REALLY long. Sorry folks. May want to skip this one altogether, in fact. It’s just me mud-wrestling with someone who doesn’t deserve the attention, because I have a stake in this particular fight.

Previously, I showed how AVfM, Paul Elam and Birric Forcella must absolutely know that men getting thrown in jail or otherwise having their lives ruined is a mathematically miniscule problem compared to the problem of unpunished rape, using some basic math intentionally skewed to advantage the claims of MRAs. Even with all of the tilts in their favour, I calculated that 10% of innocent men would end up in jail, while less than 5% of actual rapes would result in rapists seeing even a day of jailtime. While those numbers are appalling, the problem of 95% of rapes going unpunished is slightly larger than (the artificially inflated) 10% of innocent men going to jail.

That essentially proves AVfM are fighting the wrong demon, and they must know it. This sort of math is inescapable.

But what’s more is, they’re doing it because they think that feminists are fighting for 100% of rape claims to result in convictions. I know of absolutely no feminist who’s ever said that a person should be damned based on a mere accusation, not even the most radical of feminists, whom I’m sure recognize that such a structure could result in them being thrown in jail by a spiteful accuser out for revenge against them. I’d personally rather have less of ANY sort of crime, either false rape claims or rapes. I’d rather justice be served as close to perfectly as humanly possible, in absence of a sky-daddy to do all the omniscient judging for you.

But you simply can’t fight false rape claims by loosening the system such that it’s impossible for ANY rapes to see justice. Nor, vice-versa — you can’t tighten them to the point where false rape claims land innocent men in jail. The problem here is, there’s precious little evidence that innocent men ARE landing in jail, and there’s plenty of evidence that real rapists are walking all the damn time.

In fact, this idea that feminists are demanding that anonymous claims be believed without any corroborating evidence is the lynchpin of their entire argument — and the event that has gotten them so keen to throw me, a man who experienced a fake rape claim, under the bus is of course exactly the event you’d expect. And I’m the target for exactly the reason you’d expect.
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On people believing the extraordinary claims about rape

If I had known the story of my false rape allegation would be held up by so many dudebros as the reason why you can’t take rape allegations seriously, I almost certainly would have thought again about posting the story I told primarily for catharsis’ sake back in 2009, before the shit started hitting the fan in the secular community when people dared suggest maybe we should try not to chase out women so much.

Another comment today has hit my first-post moderation wall, as so many others have since the allegations had been made against Shermer, on that old post. My linking it in the Web of Trust post probably didn’t help matters, but neither did having a shitload of people who hate FtB latching onto it and deciding this meant that we at FtB, monolith that we are, are lying hypocrites and/or rapists and/or something something evil something something blog hits something take over the world.

This comment seems more reasonable than most of them, at first glance. It’s decidedly not, though.

Trigger warnings due to frank discussion of rape and rape-apologetics.
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#FtBCon: Mission Creep (with text)

FtBConscience banner

My talk for FtBConscience! Hooray!

Comments are disabled there, but are enabled here. The video should hopefully also helpfully direct would-be commenters here via the description.

Full text of my speech below the fold. It doesn’t contain any of the verbal burrs or slight tangents I took but it’s largely intact. I hope some kind soul is good enough to transcribe the Q&A portion, but if not, I’ll do so myself eventually. Richard Carrier asked a question about libertarianism, and I was forced to answer honestly rather than hedging. I’m sure I’ll incur some wrath!

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Strawprivilege

How many times ’round this particular bush must we beat? The latest spate of intentional misunderstandings about what privilege is and is not has spurred me finally to post my thoughts on this matter, though to be quite honest I’ve made a false start at this particular post about a dozen times now.

Privilege as a term used in social justice circles is fairly well understood. In fact, it strays not one whit from the dictionary definition, regardless of which dictionary you use:

noun

  • a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people

– Oxford English Dictionary

Definition of PRIVILEGE

: a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor : prerogative; especially : such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office

- Merriam-Webster (presently 19th most popular word on online lookups!)

And even law dictionaries, referring to specific legal privileges, scan in plain english:

A particular and peculiar benefit or advantage enjoyed by a person, company, or class, beyond the common advantages of other citizens. An exceptional or extraordinary power or exemption. A right, power, franchise, or immunity held by a person or class, against or beyond the course of the law.

- Black’s Law Dictionary

The concept is a solid one in sociological circles, describing existing behaviour. There are books of essays by sociologists, books by sociologists exploring how privilege interacts with viewpoint, and books of theory by sociologists who are cited often in religious discussion — it’s not exactly fringe science, and it’s certainly better supported and better explored than the present state of evolutionary psychology. It involves no just-so stories, it describes reality as observed by impartial observers, and provides an explanatory framework for how these power imbalances aggregate and perpetuate themselves without any necessarily immoral behaviour by any individuals. It is a powerful framework and it is well evidenced by thousands of years of recorded history aggregated across all our cultures.

The objections to the use of the word “privilege” are once again coming from the same quarter of our community that regularly forestalls progress (and, honestly, even discussion) with regard to social justice causes. Once again, a “leader” of our respective movements has spoken up against the terrible feminists who are “silencing dissent” with our horrible bullying tactics like “blocking people on Twitter” or “disagreeing with them on their own blogs” or “asking them to kindly stop actively talking for just long enough to hear someone else’s perspective”. This leader, and the people rising up to support and defend said leader’s words, fight tooth and nail against these feminists. By attempting to poison the well for this concept, by attempting to sap away our ability to use the concept to describe reality as it exists, they are attacking by extension everyone who happens to think that women are in a disadvantaged position in our society as a whole, and therefore by extension every woman, whether they recognize or do not recognize same.

Some of this leader’s defenders are motivated reasoners; some have a skeptical blind spot when it comes to the possibility that our communities could reflect the same background levels of misogyny and bigotry. Some are Men’s Rights Activists, who run around attacking feminists under the guise of working for the same men’s disadvantages which feminism also addresses by undermining patriarchy (while, naturally, largely ignoring men’s disadvantages altogether). Still others are onlookers, fence-sitters, people who don’t care to attempt to sort out the competing claims, people who’d really rather we return to the very serious work of being rude only to Ray Comfort and Sylvia Browne.

You’ll note I haven’t stated exactly whom I’m talking about yet. There’s a reason for that.
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Privilege, Dialogue, Harassment, and the Anti-Availability Heuristic

The Availability Heuristic is a well-known cognitive bias that primes people to more readily believe something when they can easily come up with examples. Of the cognitive biases that I’ve encountered among rationalists in the skeptical and atheist communities, this bias is the one I’m most capable of coming up with examples. I am therefore primed to believe more readily that atheists and skeptics are not immune to this bias — myself included.

But there’s a little-discussed inverse to this bias, where examples are generally filtered out of one’s daily existence because they don’t impact on you directly, and thus, you are less ready to believe someone claiming to experience them. I call this the anti-availability heuristic, though I’m sure there are better names for it.
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Linux+ Certified!

CompTIA Linux+ logo

Hooray! I passed my CompTIA Linux+ certification today. Sorry I’ve been neglecting you folks over the last little bit, but see, I’ve been studying from an old exam study guide from 2010, stolen from an acquaintance, and it’s basically eaten all my concentration since I hatched this hare-brained scheme of mine.

Last Wednesday, at about the same time as I got it in my head to finally rectify my Bachelor of Arts situation, I also bought exam vouchers for the two tests necessary to become Linux+ certified. I scheduled the tests for the soonest I could get them, then I cracked the books. And today, after melting my brainpan for a week, I am now finally a man of letters and papers and shit. I now, finally, have certifications and degrees and paperwork proving I know what I do. Well, some of it anyway. There isn’t a certification for knowing the location of every extra life in Super Mario Bros 1, sadly, or I’d be going for that next.

To celebrate my achievement, I drew a dancing turtle.

Sketch of dancing turtle - animated gif. Drawn with a Wacom tablet by a freshly-certified computer dork.

He has a top hat and a diamond tipped cane, because he gots just that much swag.

(There’s a story behind this turtle, though it’s short and kinda silly. You might hear it one day.)

I am now a Bachelor!

No, not that kind of bachelor. My dance card is still full. (Sorry, interested party(ies).)

In the Spring of 2001, I completed my last courses and, prior to leaving my university and entering the workforce to work off the debt I’d accumulated, I applied to graduate. I thought I had all my core prerequisites under control, and I assumed that I would be sent a diploma sometime thereafter.

As it turns out, I had actually flubbed one of the prerequisites. In order to complete my Bachelor of Arts (major English, minor Sociology) degree, one of the prereqs was that I had six credit hours in a language other than English. And I did — I had 3 hrs in French, and 3 hrs in German. The syllabus neglected to mention that they had to be in the same language.
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